“Bloom where you’re planted.”
It’s such a good idea, but truth be told, some locations demand a skillful gardener to coax blooms.
In our dark little hollow, we’ve found that the more trees we clear, the more flowers bloom. When we cleared the western fence row, a long row of day lilies sprang up. When the larger sycamore in the pasture came down, an ancient hydrangea came to bloom. More light, more air, more flowers.
The Jungle Book production at our local high school was a smashing success. The gardeners, otherwise known as directors, cultivated a crew of more than forty young people, ages 6 to 18, through two and a half months of intense rehearsals. Some participants were seasoned perennials, but many of the youngsters were first time transplants in the world of theater.
If the thought of choreographing forty mixed age kids into a cohesive hour and a half long stage production isn’t enough to make you shake in your boots, consider that they also used live music. The high school band performed the entire score. “Bare Necessities, and “Wanna Be Like You”, and plenty more, too.
Live music adds such depth to a performance. There’s something about the vibration of the trombone, the piano string, that cannot be captured and replayed without a living player. And there’s so much to learn about singing with real musicians. It’s easier to sing with canned music. It never changes – you can change your voice all you want, but you know the recorded tune will not alter. Much easier. To sing a song with live musicians means forming a listening relationship with each other. It’s a wonderful thing to learn – and good strong work.
We know our sprouts, here on the farm. We know Lulah to be an active, spicy girl with strong opinions. She can be easily distracted, but when she sets her mind to a task, her determination will see her through.
But she hasn’t done a lot of growing in the larger world. She’s comfortable at the homes of our family and friends, and at our home church. But consider that she’s never been in a classroom with a built-in set of thirty peers. Her closest friends are children she has known either since she was born or they were. They have their own codes of familiarity, and they love one an-others company in a particularly unconditional, deep, and wonderful way.
I had no idea how she would adapt to the company of so many new kids. Even though she can be outrageously expressive at home, I have seen her be reserved, even almost shy, in less familiar environments. But again, the skilled gardeners find a way. The show directors took time to break the ice, play games, and create structure to keep the kids busy with one another in different age groups. When I ventured into the hallowed auditorium to drop off or pick up my little performer, I was happy with the environment I encountered. The kids were friendly without pretense, and though Lulah wasn’t always engaged talking with someone, she never seemed put out about it. Throughout the course of the show, especially as dress rehearsals began to get more intense, she bonded more closely with a couple of the other girls. She was content with her experience. And so, I could be too.
Rehearsals took place during some horrible winter weather, then through the first few spring rushes of intense work in the garden, then through the loss of the third member of our family to pass away in less than a year. Lulah definitely learned that the show must go on. And it’s been good, that regularity, and the carrying of the creative spark even in the mundane work. Lulah was pushed (she always slept well after rehearsals), but just far enough to become productive, never to the point of burn out. Creativity, brought to fruition, is a lot of work, after all.
Rehearsals were closed. Even though we ate, slept, and breathed the Jungle Book, we had no idea how the performance would actually look. It was a great surprise. We intended to attend just a couple of the five performances, letting family and friends fill in for us on other nights, but in the end, we only missed one show. Even watching the performances unfold was wonderful. Everyone gained such confidence and familiarity over the course of those five days. It was like time lapse photography of a blooming field of wildflowers – with a really groovin’ soundtrack.
I can’t help but admit that I’m relieved to be free of rehearsal schedule. I’m sure we all are. But I have no regrets about the time well spent. The cut flowers on our table remind me just how much our Lulah has bloomed. I’m grateful for the patient production team, skilled gardeners all, who take the time to help our children grow this way. The beauty and fun, the living color, sound, and movement that they are cultivating in our community is vital to the root, heart and soul.