“What a curious plan” (Alice)
One of the many highlights of the 8th grade in a Waldorf school is the class play: where each student gets the chance to be on stage and perform or contribute in other special ways.
Choosing a play for my class was not an easy thing and it took most of the summer until I had found the story.
The perfect story.
I always knew what I was looking for in a play and I always knew that I did not want to go the traditional route of Shakespeare. Although I did not want to do a musical, I wanted it to have the artistic elements of music, movement, and verse.
Our 8th grade is a unique bunch of eight young women and one young man; beautiful inside and out and I wanted to find a play that represented their individuality, and their joy and curiosity in life. I wanted to do something exciting, something that was coherent as a story, something colorful, and something that told a captivating tale that was interesting to follow.
Having not been familiar with the story of Alice (I had watched the movie a long time ago), I could right away imagine my class performing. The more I read the more I knew how fitting it was.
“Who are you?” (Caterpillar)
Alice in Wonderland is a story about a curious girl, who finds herself in a place called Wonderland after following a white rabbit and falling down a deep well. Alice takes us on her journey through Wonderland, where she will experience peculiar things, meets very interesting characters, and finds herself in very strange places.
While this summary gives only a very broad overview of the story, Alice is not a very straightforward story at all. By reading it and editing the script, more and more details and little interesting facets, humor, and wit came up that I had missed reading it the first time.
The reason I fell in love with this story for my class was not only for the potential of a beautiful visual scenery I imagined while reading but for the story itself. Alice is about so much more than what meets the eye and the more we practiced the play the more similarities and parallels I (accidentally) found.
For me, the story of Alice is about an individual that finds herself in a world that is very strange, new, and even frightened and whose courage and curiosity keep her exploring and thus opening her up for new experiences. It is a story of identity, a journey of experiences, and figuring out who we are. This is just like the 8th graders, who are on the threshold of not only stepping into high school, but finding themselves searching, exploring, and encountering new worlds and new things as they make their way into their senior years and embrace adolescence.
Just like in real life, we stumble upon situations that don’t make sense to us and encounters that seem peculiar. We meet people who are different, that we learn from and who teach us. All of these are experiences that shape us into who we are and who we will become.
Eighth grade marks the culmination of the eight years of the lower school journey. It is a year of new challenges and completion as the students prepare for the transition to new adventures (high school, new house parents, etc.). With new experiences, we change and evolve and, just like Alice, we are never the same person we were yesterday. Curiosity is the driving force that enables us to become explorers.
“I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date.” (White Rabbit)
We started practicing after winter break and were promptly put on hold due to COVID making its rounds in the lower school. First, it was one residential house that needed to quarantine taking three of my students out. Then another house – two more of my cast gone. Then the first house needed to continue quarantined. Lastly, I myself had COVID and was out for ten days. There was a week when we only had one student and two paraprofessionals left in the class!
For obvious reasons, I was worried and anxious. Not only were most of my students out, but the weeks kept rolling so fast. By the time everyone had recovered and was back in class, we had five more weeks to go. And so, for those five weeks, we started our hard work.
“Did someone pull you by the hand” (Alice’s Theme song)
The one thing I could not have done without was the support. I was, and still am, most grateful for all the help I received from the community, my fellow teachers, house parents, and especially my team of paraprofessionals and coworkers. I was blown away by everyone’s generosity, flexibility, understanding, and willingness to help out and make things possible. The joy and genuine selflessness of simply wanting to help out never ceases to amaze me. My words are not enough to express my gratitude and thanks to each and everyone who helped us make the play a very beautiful and amazing experience.
Looking back, I can say that this was the most intense school experience I had so far, but also the most joyful and rewarding. The idea of doing a play (at least in a Waldorf school) is not the outcome but rather the process and what the students take with them and gain from that experience. The confidence some of them have developed, the joy, pride, flexibility, and working together in a group. Added to that, the patience, that comes with it, waiting for your turn, your part, are all things along with many more than the 8th graders have experienced and worked hard on.
For some it was speaking in front of an audience, speaking slow and loud and clear. For others it was working together in a group, following, learning lines, movements, and cues by heart. Individually they learned and grew and shined like a star so that together they could rise to the occasion and create something wonderfully beautiful.