Monday, April 14, 2008

To Oz

Over the weekend, I went with Daughter No. 2 to see the high school's production of The Wizard of Oz. Their annual musical productions are always fun. Several years ago, the music director put together adult pit orchestras, so I got to play for The Princess and the Pea and South Pacific. For the last several years, though, the accompanying music has been almost exclusively keyboard. That's a lot of music for one guy to be responsible for, but he always does a good job.

I was impressed with how the kids managed the opening scene—the backdrop of the Kansas farm was painted in black and white, and the costumes were all black and white. But when Dorothy's house landed in Oz and the curtain raised for the next scene, everything and everyone was in color. Kids from the elementary schools acted as the munchkins, and they sang with such adorable enthusiasm and right on pitch. Everyone in the cast sang well, and not one of them seemed to forget a line. You could tell they had worked very hard.

But here's the thing—it was nearly overshadowed by a bit of trauma from earlier during the school day. To begin with, the staff at the school is a little on edge because of a former student who has made threats on his Myspace page. He actually spent some time in the local detention center for threatening to kill a teacher and for posing in a photo with his father's guns. He now sits at home and makes people nervous just by being alive. Last week on his Myspace, he simply said, "I can't wait until Friday," and suddenly people were speculating that he planned on shooting up the school.

Then on Friday with everyone being cautious, another student got angry while in a classroom and spouted off, saying something like "I'm going to blow this place up." He didn't mean it, but with tensions as high as they were, that set off a chain of rumors and speculations. The students were supposed to gather in the auditorium to see a preview of the musical, but they weren't allowed in case the scary kid with the Myspace page really was planning on doing something stupid. You wouldn't want the kids all in one place for his convenience. Then there was a brief lock down while the faculty sorted out this other threat. When we went to the play that evening, police officers were guarding the entrances, and parents were talking about all kinds of stories they heard from one source or another. People were telling stories about the boy's father and how terrible his home life is, and someone was sure the police had brought in bomb-sniffing dogs at one point to make sure the auditorium was clear. With all the chatter, you really have no idea what to believe, but you know when someone starts their sentence with, "I don't know if this is true, but...," you should be suspicious.

I don't know what makes a kid from a screwed up home pose with guns and threaten violence, and I don't know what makes another kid from a screwed up home go for a part in the school play. Some homes are just screwed up. Some kids just don't get the right kind of parenting. For some kids, life can really suck, and you just have to wait it out until it gets better. Wouldn't it be nice for us all if the kids who are looking for answers or guidance or to be told why doing the right thing is better than doing the wrong thing could just raise a flag? Then we'd all be able to help.

Well, they don't raise a flag until it's too late sometimes. You don't know they're in trouble until they have done something unspeakable that puts them on the national news, or maybe they just frighten their town into almost being too afraid to sit in the school auditorium.

At least for a little while we did sit in that auditorium, and we got to see a heart-warming play and hear some lovely songs as a distraction from some potentially serious trouble. If I Only Had A Brain is my favorite. Sing it, and tell me it doesn't make you happy. And tell me a troubled kid who sings this song wouldn't think twice before opening fire.

...a brain

I could while away the hours
Conferrin' with the flowers
Consultin' with the rain
And my head, I'd be scratchin'
While my thoughts were busy hatchin'
If I only had a brain.

I'd unravel ev'ry riddle
For any individ'le
In trouble or in pain

With the thoughts you'd be thinkin'
You could be another Lincoln,
If you only had a brain.

Oh, I could tell you why
The ocean's near the shore,
I could think of things I never thunk before
And then I'd sit and think some more.

I would not be just a nuffin'
My head all full of stuffin'
My heart all full of pain.
I would dance and be merry
Life would be a ding-a-derry
If I only had a brain--Whoa!

... a heart

When a man's an empty kettle
He should be on his mettle
And yet I'm torn apart
Just because I'm presumin'
That I could be kind-a human
If I only had a heart.

I'd be tender, I'd be gentle
And awful sentimental
Regarding love and art
I'd be friends with the sparrows
And the boy who shoots the arrows,
If I only had a heart.

Picture me ... a balcony ...
Above a voice sings low--

Wherefore art thou, Romeo?

I hear a beat.
How sweet!
Just to register emotion.
"Jealousy," "devotion"
And really feel the part
I could stay young and chipper
And I'd lock it with a zipper
If I only had a heart.

... the Nerve

Yeah, it's sad, believe me missy,
When you're born to be a sissy,
Without the vim and verve.
But I could show my prowess,
Be a lion not a mowess,
If I only had the nerve

I'm afraid there's no denyin'
I'm just a dandelion
A fate I don't deserve.
I'd be brave as a blizzard ...

TIN MAN: I'd be gentle as a lizard ...
SCARECROW: I'd be clever as a gizzard ...
DOROTHY: If the Wizard is a wizard who will serve.
SCARECROW: Then I'm sure to get a brain ...
TIN MAN: ... a heart
DOROTHY: a home
LION: the nerve!


dive said...

Scary stuff, Robyn.
I'm glad the musical went well after all that nonsense.
Though I'm not sure I should thank you for getting that song stuck in my head.

Cheri said...

Oh. My. Gosh. What a post. What a terrific telling of an awful truth and bringing it around to a beautiful truth.

DearestDragonfly said...

Oh how sad that such as this has come to small town.

Yes - we need more nature, more beauty, more music, more poetry. Much more Heart.

Gina said...

I wish we as a society could do more for those in need, but as you said, sometimes that need is seen only when it is too late.