Nothing is quite so beautiful and terrible all at the same time as an all-school Christmas musical. Our first rehearsal was Wednesday, and I was shaking with silent belly laughs, tears streaming down my cheeks from watching the little kids perform. The three year olds are pulling their shirts up and holding them in their mouths, bumping bellies, crying and begging to go to the bathroom. The loudest fourth grader has an incredible lisp and is quite off-key, and did you know it’s actually possible to sway in seventy million directions at once? I thought there was only side to side. Because of puberty, “Mary” is about a foot taller than “Joseph” and the Shepherds have braces. I was also doing my level best to convince the students we were bringing a real baby Jesus for the manger in the night time performance, so they needed to sing like angels or they will wake him up. (I added he had red hair and was named “Scott.” I have no idea why.)
Thursday we spent all day at the location with the students, practicing the technology and transitions. I was Stage Manager so I felt really cool with a walkie talkie and clipboard, trouble-shooting everything from “who will kill that cockroach” to “how do we safely load and unload 150 children onstage without breaking anything or anyone.” This kind of stuff is my bread and butter – encouraging the junior highers to speak slowly and clearly, telling Mary “you’re pregnant with Baby Jesus! This is cray! Act excited up there!” and trying to make a bunch of nervous kids laugh enough that it breaks the tension and they will go onstage. All the teachers sit on the ground in front of the stage, loudly whispering the lyrics and exaggerating the hand motions to try to keep their classes focused on performing the songs instead of shoving each other.
It usually works.
And of course there is always the one girl during the sweet ballet number who gets up onstage, realizes there are people besides her teacher in the audience, and breaks down into hiccuping sobs. There are the boys who are fascinated with how loud it is when they stomp their feet onstage, and the girls who whisper “I’m scared, Miss!” (for some reason, Brazilians never use your last name. We are all “Miss!”) but then belt out the songs when they get out there.
There are the kids who manage to lose a piece of their costume before they’ve even made it to the stage for their first song. There is the heavy breather with the microphone, too nervous to realize the loud Darth Vader impression reverberating from the speakers is them. There is the key change that never quite makes it, and the kids picking their noses, waving at Mom, following the beat of their own drum when we have no drums. The parents who always stand in front of everyone, filming the entire thing on their ipad, or crowding the aisles to create a fire hazard and to obstruct the path of the Magi in search of the Messiah.
In the end, it came together beautifully. The kids were adorable and well-behaved, there were no real technical difficulties, nobody died and everybody heard about Jesus. The parents will never now how much work it took, and that’s the point. My roomie killed it, conducting the whole thing in a beautifully sparkly dress. She cried of happiness when it was over, and when we got home, we all collapsed onto the couch, drinking some apple rum thing from mason jars and watching clips of Fail Army, making slap happy jokes and congratulating Anysia on her success. And we’re all hopeful that her dog, Bruce, will stop stress-peeing all over the house out of sympathy for her.
I’m proud of Anysia, and all our students for the program they put on. And I’ll never forget spotting my little English learners among the group, furiously shouting along the words to “Go Tell it on the Mountain” at the top of their lungs, hands raised with their classmates. I’m so stoked to be here in Brazil and teaching again, more than blessed to get to be a part of their little lives. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. (And outside. Because it’s 99 freaking degrees and I haven’t shaved my legs in a week.)
UGH I LOVE TEACHING RIGHT NOW (THAT VACATION STARTS NEXT WEEK HAS NOOOOOOTHING TO DO WITH IT.)
MERRY CHRISTMAS MY PEOPLE FAR AND NEAR.