Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Christmas pageant: make-up or make-believe

Sunday evening we took our granddaughter to a re-enactment of A Charlie Brown Christmas. This was put on by the children’s department of a small (by today’s standards) local church. I had been at the rehearsal to take photos so I had a chance to see some of the behind the scenes activity.

In this day and age of professionalizing everything including children this production was a breath of fresh air. The players were from the junior Sunday school classes with most of the costumes being, either their own or modified off-the-rack, street clothes. Well, except Snoopy whose grandma made a terry cloth jumpsuit for the occasion.

The stage was an elevation off the side of the multipurpose gymnasium/auditorium. The scenes were set by use of lighting and a few props that could be pushed into or out of center stage. There were mics and some wireless mics since the acoustics would not have allowed the cast to be heard at all without them. Unfortunately they were a necessary evil as one set of batteries died and some of the transmitters unclipped mid-scene.

Still, there were no voice or drama coaches hovering nearby, no choreographers, and no professional make-up artists. (Okay one little girl could have benefited from a suggestion that her violent orange lipstick was distracting.) A Charlie Brown Christmas is a story of a group of kids thrown together by proximity and through the “thick of thin things” to reapply a Covey-ism they rediscover what Christmas is all about. This production, done with strategic but minimal guidance, allowed another group of children the opportunity to do something similar.

There is nothing wrong with having a formal children’s theatre organization. I just think there needs to be a deliberate delineation between the all-call children’s play and the formal – even semi-professional – children’s theatre. All children need an outlet for make-believe and stepping into the shoes of others as part of their personal growth and self-exploration.

Modern society and ideas about childhood have all but eradicated children’s discretionary use time. More and more, children and their time are programmed and controlled and evaluated for outcomes, appropriate and approved outcomes.

Children are not just sponges absorbing the experiences we dip them in. Really, left to their own devices, they are like little scientists carrying out experiments to discover what works and what doesn’t, and how to fix or clean up the mess. When we feed them only the things that work we dis-empower them to risk the unknown when it arrives and how to fix what they break.

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1 comment:

Pieces of Me said...

I recently watched A Charlie Brown's Christmas on you tube; it brought so many memories. Ivry loves it. What a treat.