I always thought of blogs as being narcissistic, business related, or as my sister's, a way of keeping in touch or memorializing.

But, by necessity, I am learning a lot about myself. I find I need to get my thoughts out, and it helps me to know that someone else will read them. So I have created this little space for myself, to express the things I have trouble saying (be it emotional or physical trouble), to share what I'm going through, and what I'm learning through it.

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Saturday, 28 May 2011

My Son the Star

There's a drum teacher who teaches in our after school program. My son has been obsessed with percussion for as long as he can remember, which is about 2 years. Today, the drum teacher was shooting a pilot for a show he's pitching to all the children's networks. He invited his students to be a part of it, and my son, much to my surprise, asked to go.

So we woke up nice and early this morning and drove out to Richmond Hill (about 30 minutes for those without intimate geographic knowledge of Toronto) where they were shooting, in a music store that is really more like a really super cool music mall. The place was amazing. But I digress.

When we got the e-mail confirming the details, and wardrobe requirements, we promptly freaked out. Does any child in this day and age have any clothing that has no graphics, words or logos on it, is not striped or chequered, and not black, white or green? I could find nothing in his wardrobe that fit that description. I sent a panicked e-mail, thinking I would actually have to go shopping (and then crash for three days), and was relieved to hear back that they would take a look at his clothes and choose the most appropriate. So I scoured the house looking for the least obnoxiously patterned shirts, and pants with no green on them, packed up and off we went.

When we arrived, we split up so I could take an elevator up to the second floor, while he and my mom (who drove us out there so we could be sure to actually make it home again) went up the stairs. I arrived at the waiting room to find my mother and son in deep discussion with the production manager and a production assistant regarding his shoes. When they said no green, I never thought to check his shoes! Not that he has any other pairs he could have worn. It turns out that the green stripes on his shoes are exactly the colour of the green screen, in front of which they were shooting so as to later add animation. His shoes! So, once his shoes were taped up and he received instructions, he was whisked away with the other children, and we were left in the waiting room to wait. And wait. And wait.

Two and a half hours later, they came out for a drink of water, and the parents were invited to watch the last few minutes of filming. Oh my goodness, was it ever fun! And incredibly professional. I don't know what I was expecting, but I know I haven't seen a set up like that since my days in film studies. The children were sitting on a stage on their marks in front of the green screen, and there was a full three camera setup with all kinds of lights; spots and fills and mains, and everything. There was a crew of about 8 people.

My son's role, you ask? Well, the children were gathered around the drum teacher while he showed them different drums, and basically followed his directions, moving, yelling, clapping, waving - whatever he called for, they did. There were 6 children in total, ages ranging, I would guess from 5 to 8. There were a couple of younger ones at the beginning as well, but they were exhausted and went home after about an hour.

Watching the performance was super cool. My boy was so attentive, and so clear in his movements, and so very expressive. My mom and I both immediately thought of the Movement and Mindfulness teacher at our school (let's call her Ronnie), and how much her work was reflected in his performance.

Of all the children there, he was the only one who really exaggerated and dramatized his movements. When they "landed" in Africa, and were looking around the "forest," he had his eyes wide open, and looked not only to the sides like the others, but twisted his head all the way back to look up at the canopy - or maybe he was looking for monkeys. For a child to do this work, especially in front of a green screen, he really needs to have a strong imagination. He needs to understand and picture situations in which he has never been. In order to do that, he must relate his own experiences with what he imagines it would be like.

When he is in Ronnie's class, he learns to be inside and outside himself in those ways. She has this way of connecting the students to their bodies that is just marvelous. Today he showed that not only can he do it with her, but he has generalized it to the point that he can do it with a bunch of strangers and a TV crew, on a stage under lights with no props or backdrop or any visual cues!

Ronnie also directs the major shows at the school, and she does so in a way that makes the students comfortable with their roles, her expectations, and the exposure. She is one of those people who gets Montessori without having to go through training and courses. She has read lots about it, and her husband was a Montessori child (we went to the same school in Mexico), and she is very dedicated to it. She often says that it is very different working with students in Montessori schools than in other schools; our children are more grounded, and better able to focus, which allows her to take them deeper into the activities. So when she directs the shows, she does so in a very Montessori way.

Parents are always amazed at our shows, which are always original and often written in conjunction with the students. My mom makes a point of telling them every time, that the results were achieved without a single child being yelled at, or intimidated, or left out. Every child participates, and does so happily and with enthusiasm. They do so because they are part of the collaboration. Because each show is written and directed with the students in mind. Ronnie knows each child inside out, and knows what each child is capable of, and where their limitations lie. She works with that, and makes them see just how much they really can do, and they respond with such spirit, that every time, the entire audience is engaged in ways you would never expect at a school show.

Ronnie demands a professional attitude and a strong effort from the students, and they respond. She works them hard, and the rehearsals can last for hours, but they are present, to the best of their abilities. But the rehearsals are also scheduled according to what they can handle, and are broken down so that only the children involved need be present. She also runs a very professional show. Thanks to her work, my son is used to looking for marks on the floor, following directions, and performing on cue, in a genuine, carefree, confident way.

It just hit me, as I write this, that part of the reason I am writing so passionately about her work, is that I miss being a part of it. For the last 5 years, I have been her assistant in the creation of these amazing performances. I have sat at her side, and helped with crowd control and pep talks and direction, and props, and always the sound system which somehow ended up being my baby. And especially the music. I really do miss it. I miss her. Again, I digress, but I needed to say that.

Back tot he pilot:

Needless to say, I am, as always, a super proud mom, and ever grateful to those who have supported my son's development.

So will the show be picked up? Who knows. But we will get to see the video when it's through post-production a few months from now.

Am I exhausted? You bet. Three hours we were there, and the waiting room got more and more crowded, and as it did, louder and louder. I started to fade about 2 hours into the deal. I'm roasted, and toasted, and knackered, and shattered.

Was it worth it? Absolutely. To see him so excited and so professional and so confident - anything is worth that. Whether or not he actually gets to be on TV.

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