I got a chance today to really put my work to the test.
We had a booking this afternoon at a school that usually brings us out every year to perform whatever our anti-drug or peer pressure play that year is. We always give back-to-back performances. Usually, the first show is for kindergarten through second grade and the second show is for third through fifth. It's been that way every year I've ever been out to this school. So, when we arrived today for our two shows, I expected more of the same. As soon as I met with our contact, however, I discovered things were slightly different this time around.
"The first audience will be 1st through 4th," she told me, "and the second will be 5th grade through 8th."
Fifth through eighth???
Okay. See, we have age recommendations for each of our shows. The recommended ages for Teammates are 2nd through 5th grade. Usually, some school brings in their youngest kids, and that's fine. They just get a little fidgety. (Though maybe sometime I'll tell you about the time I performed Bartholomew's Reading Adventure for an entire audience that was too young to read. Oy) But 7th-8th grade? The too-cool-for-school crowd? I was not particularly looking forward to that crowd.
Anyway, we did the first show (for the ideal target audience), and it was nothing short of awesome. The kids laughed everywhere I wanted them to, they responded to the serious scenes the way I'd hoped they would, and after the big basketball game at the end, they were cheering so wildly that I had to quiet them down so I could finish up the show. Once the first show was over, it was time to try out this little piece of theater on a whole new demographic.
We talked a little before the show about a few changes we'd planned to make. We kept the story and script in tact, but we aged the protagonists from 4th grade to 6th grade and similarly upgraded the older bullies from 6th grade to 8th grade. We also talked about playing our characters a little bit more mature. Again, we left the script in tact, we just modified the ages a bit. Otherwise, we played the same show.
The older kids totally dug it. I mean, naturally, you had that section of kids who just sit and talk and make fun of everything; that's only natural with this age group. But the majority of the kids were engaged and active and responsive. They laughed at some of the more sophisticated humor than the younger kids had, and after the big climactic b-ball showdown--miracle of miracles!--they cheered almost as hard as the young kids had!
It was a fantastic experience as a performer, as the unit manager, and as the playwright. I was really proud of everyone's character adjustments with no forewarning or rehearsals, I was grateful for the kids for giving us a chance, and really I was glad we were able to give them a chance as an audience. And of course, it was overwhelmingly reassuring to see the story I wrote for grade school students translate just as well for a middle school crowd. It was fun; everything about it was fun. It was one of those days when I really got to love my job.