Sunday, May 23, 2010

The New Wave Middle Ages

It is coming up to the end of the school year here in the US and you can tell because the school has had to produce a schedule of upcoming performances. We have had a Kindergarten spring sing for which the highlight was, believe it or not, a Coke ad from the 1980s. We have had a 4th grade band performance which kept things simple and painless but had a repertoire of 12 songs in 10 minutes. And just last week our daughter's class put on a 6th grade play based on their social science theme of 'The Middle Ages.'

That play turned out to be of surprisingly high quality -- and we have seen enough of these to know -- and was supposedly put together in just over a month with practice limited to 2 hours per week. It was based on a Oprah special (carefully reworded to Hopra to avoid attracting copyright authorities) which involved various interviews with historical figures and an under-cover investigation of the horrid life to the peasants who ended up engaging in morally sanctioned violence and an uprising although it was not as violent as the uprising by the new gentry against higher taxes that occurred later on. (By the way, the issue with the taxes was that they were funding what appeared to be a fruitless war). My daughter had a role as a rioter in both revolutions as well as some inflammatory lines which she got by virtue of being able to sound the most 'English.' Of course, the plum acting jobs were the folks who will killed by, I think it was the Romans or maybe they were the Romans, in the first scene. Each was given 10 seconds to die; time that they managed to take up with agony. 

My daughter's main role was that of Martin Luther and she had some face time with Hopra herself on the talk set. Suffice it to say, you got the sense that there was broad sympathy with that cause amongst the group.

Compared to my day, there was certainly more Bon Jovi and more commercials in the Middle Ages than I had recalled. The Bon Jovi was used to turned what should have been a bloody fight scene against King John into a dance number; leaving me to wonder if Ridley Scott will use a similar device in the new Robin Hood movie. The commercials were there to at realism -- to the talk show concept -- although it was clear that FDA regulations, while acknowledged, were lax when it came to using poseys as a means of warding off the Black Death. Then again, it is not clear that that commercial would have 'sold' anyone on those, even in the Middle Ages.

Perhaps most interesting to me was what happened after the play. I happened to be around to see the class form a circle and get a huge amount of positive reinforcements for all of their efforts (including specifics) that the class seemed to lap right up. This is not something that would happen in Australia which is a pity. No wonder American school children are considered to be amongst the most self-confident in the world.