Slice of Life: Theater Critic

(This is a Slice of Life post, for a month-long writing activity hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write about the small moments of our days. You write, too.)

It may be that I am a little sensitive in role as teacher of sixth graders. I am not naive about the world, of course. But I am sensitive in my role as filter. And yesterday, that made me a silent theater critic sitting uncomfortably in the audience of a preview show of a stage production of Little Shop of Horrors.

Let me back up …

Our sixth graders, along with fifth and sixth graders from the other elementary schools in our district, took a bus trip up to our regional high school yesterday to see a preview performance of Little Shop of Horrors, which the high school theater group is putting on this coming weekend. This was an invite from the high school, which paid for the busses and cost us nothing. Let me say up front: the performance was wonderful, with great acting and singing, and the brief appearance by the plant was a huge hit with the elementary-school audience.

Here’s where the filter critic in me comes into focus.

It has been many years since I watched Little Shop of Horrors (all I now remember is Steve Martin) and I guess I forgot that the female protagonist is in an abusive relationship, entering the story with a black eye, and then an arm in a cast, and deflecting jokes about handcuffs in the bedroom. I forgot that the dentist tells the audience how he happily tortured dogs and cats as a kid (with support of his mother?), and how he enjoys inflicting pain on people. I didn’t remember the character in a long trench coat who flashes girls on stage nor the stumbling drunk with a bottle in his hand, falling down, evoking laughter from the crowd.

I forgot all that until I saw it on stage and thought, maybe this preview is not for this age group? You think? Of course, by then, it was too late. We were there, seated. The show goes on. We watched, and then the best part for me was the end, when some of the high school actors came out on stage to answer questions about acting, production and being in front of live audience.

When I got home, I told my wife about the performance, and she said, “Doesn’t that play have sadomasochist overtones?” Eh. Yep.

Peace (in the play),

  1. I am always torn between the need for artistic freedom, opening eyes, and encouraging thought and what is within the framework of what our kids can understand. That one pushes the envelope and I too would have been uncomfortable watching it with younger kids.

  2. Well…I know what kids get from theater in general–fantasy and pageant. Plot is sort of important to them, but not really. And character development and all the other categorical nonsense? Where I would like to be a fly on the wall is twenty years hence when they watch the latest off-Broadway revival of this (or a staged hologram presentation) and they remember with awe and wonder and, frankly, admiration that someone had the stones to take them to a production of Little Shop when they were in sixth grade. I shall have to tell you sometime in person about showing eight graders parts of “The Producers” in … well, a long time ago. (Hey, spoiler, did not get me fired ;-).)

    Today’s anti-spam: ha googly or as I think of it in the theater of my mind, “Ha! Googly!”

  3. Ahhhhh, that’s crazy! Truth is stranger than fiction for sure. The amazing thing about the mind is that is censors itself 🙂 You played it so cool., and of course, that is the most important thing.

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