The spring operetta at St. James School has come and gone, and if you missed it, you’re probably kicking yourself just like you did when Steppenwolf was practically begging you to come see “August: Osage County” when it first opened and you were too busy to bother. The operetta didn’t get nominated for a Tony, an Obie, a Jeff, an Off-Jeff, a Wedgie, or a Shmegege, but that’s fine because those are all about “who you know.” But this operetta will be remembered as the swansong for Liesel in her starring roles there, and for me in building the sets.
Liesel will be changing schools next year so that she’ll be able to count her classmates on more than one hand. She’s not too happy about it, since she’s been there since she was three, but she’s going into the fifth grade, and it’s a good time to make a change. One of the carrots we held out for her was that her new school does a student musical every spring, because such events are the highlight of her year. The competition for roles, of course, will be a little tougher, but she’s pretty good and is bound to get better. In “Adventures of a Comic Book Artist,” she played the hero Blossom, who has a magic flower that can put villains to sleep. Kind of a benevolent Poison Ivy. I took the picture below with the last little bit of charge on my camera. I’m very mad that I didn’t get one of her alone in front of my kinetic backdrop.
This year, I did for the sets what I do every year, mainly paint dropcloths from Home Depot to serve as backdrop curtains. One was a view of Times Square, the other was a smattering of comic book onomatopoeias, which I was pretty proud of. I also had to create the headquarters of Wonder Comics, whose slogan of course is “If it’s a GOOD comic, it’s a WONDER.” I don’t know if anyone got the joke, but that one was for the boys in the back room. I probably spent 30 hours or so on the sets, maybe more, but I just love doing them. The kids can get so excited when they show up for rehearsal and the stage has taken one more step toward the look of a real show. Last year I got to make a lot of oversized food for a “Jack and the Beanstalk” type story, which was even more fun. I kept the cheeseburger I made (picture here). It sits in our TV room, which is turning into a sort of Batcave displaying artifacts and mementos from the kids’ various stage productions from church and school.
It will be sad to leave a school into which we’ve poured so much time, energy and money, but many of the resources that first attracted us are no longer there, and we couldn’t bear the idea of Liesel staying with the same five kids all the way through eighth grade, then enrolling her in a school with 300 freshmen. Plus, overarching concerns like the lack of a school board, a domineering pastor and an ineffectual principal will not be changed anytime soon. (The place also had a recent exodus of 4 teachers, which will add to chaos next year.) This operetta will be our send-off, but it was a terrific show with lots of energy and talent. And all the best shows eventually come to an end.