Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Bards of Chelsea

Grace Begin, playwright?

Apparently so. That's what I learned at last week's parent-teacher conferences at Chelsea Elementary School.

And not only a playwright, but a creative force whose efforts on "The Family" - along with partners Kailey Roberts and Tiffany Doyle - has inspired an explosion of theatrical activity among the school's fourth-graders. There's even talk of a sequel, "Cameron Strikes Again!" to the off-off Broadway production.

Sadly, while I missed the original post-recess performance a few weeks ago, I can look forward to the "revival" that I know will come at some point in the near future.

"The Family" tells of the adventures of young Cameron, a surprisingly Grace-like character, who lives with her grandparents Sharon and Philip, played by Tiff and Kay, respectively. Written and rehearsed by the trio in an open theater ("playground"), the play was reset in a quaint, slightly cramped indoor setting ("Lydia Biswell's classroom"), where it was performed on a minimalist set to the delight of a small audience ("Chelsea fourth graders").

Lydia, a veteran educator not afraid to modify a lesson plan to take advantage of a more robust learning experience, told us she could not deny the initiative the girls took in writing, rehearsing and staging an original production.

"It was a wonderful example of writing and creativity," she said, adding that the effort has since spawned several other creative ventures that are currently in various stages of production. There's been an offsite magic show - complete with ticket takers and a backstage manager - and efforts to develop a fourth-grade variety show rumored to be held in the Roberts' garage (although the site is still awaiting confirmation).

This latest Grace-ism is yet another illustration of how our younger daughter is, to quote philosopher Forrest Gump, "like a box of choc-o-lates...you never know what you're gonna get."

Grace is a lovable - yet sometimes frustrating - wildcard, an unknown, a child often quite different than her older and younger siblings. They are, by comparison, a bit more predictable. Grace is not. She is a former toddler climber, a child not afraid to scale anything in her path and one for whom tall, rugged baby gates were designed.

She is the preschooler who once touched a hot baking sheet a second time because she expected the result to be different. The one who careened off an exercise ball into a large, bulky television set that nearly crushed her. The one who has turned my thinning hair and the whiskers on my chin white while making every parent-teacher conference from preschool to fourth grade a unique and memorable experience.

She is funny and argumentative, fearless and curious...a mini-Missy in many ways who also shows displays aspects of my character. She is, in short, just "Grace" - an enigma whose wonderful, quirky qualities I've come to love and appreciate as she dances to the beat of her own, fashionably dressed drummer.

And now she and her peers are leading a literary charge through our small town...telling stories, crafting characters and dreaming big.

To this I say, "Write on, tiny writers! Write on!"

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