Recently 11th grader Ruth, who co-directed and produced "Aladdin," and Manuela, a 6th grade performer in the show, sat down with Ms. Q to look back on the experience of putting together the show. They discussed the challenges, the highlights and the lessons they learned. Check it out!
|Ruth (far left) teaches choreography to Manuela (far right) and other dancers|
KQ: Were you surprised by how well the show came together after all the ups and downs and behind-the-scenes drama?
Ruth: Yes! There were definitely days where I was scared it was going to just be one big mess. But then towards the end everybody got serious and focused. More or less. (Laughs)
Manuela: For me, I don’t know, I was pretty nervous right up to the first performance. But then I just got out on stage and it was really, really fun. And I just relaxed. It was awesome.
KQ: Do you guys remember that one really tough moment you had together in the art room toward the middle of the rehearsal process?
Manuela: Oh yeah. Definitely.
Ruth: Ohhhh yesssss.
KQ: It seems like you’ve built a pretty positive relationship since then. Can you tell me about what happened that day, and what’s changed for you since then?
Ruth: Well, that was a really tough day for me. I was completely exhausted, first of all. I had all this schoolwork on my mind, and the other leaders were on some trip and they were running late, so I was starting off rehearsal by myself. I was nervous because I thought maybe I was going to do something wrong and then my co-director would be disappointed or something. So anyway, I didn’t know this, but I guess Manuela had also had a really tough day…
Manuela: Yeah, I just had some really intense family stuff happen, and some things with kids in my grade being really mean, and I was just kind of, I don’t know. I was all over the place, you know?
Ruth: So yeah, so I’m trying to teach this dance, and Manuela’s friend Monei is talking. I didn’t realize that she was comforting Manuela, who was crying, because Manuela’s kind of short and she was standing in the back…
Manuela: I’m not short.
Ruth: (Laughs) Anyway, I tell Monei to stop doing what she’s doing, and she says something about how I’m being insensitive toward Manuela, but I don’t even know what’s she’s talking about so I send her out of the room, but now it spirals out of control and everyone’s all upset and of course not following any of my directions and finally I just kind of lose it and go into the art room.
Manuela: And so at that time I’m thinking, “Whoa, this girl Ruth must totally hate me, so forget this, I don’t even wanna do this play anymore.”
KQ: Wow, it was like the perfect storm. So when I went to check on the rehearsal and left you both together in the art room, how did you make peace?
Manuela: Well, I guess it was that Ruth told her side and then I told my side, and it was like our stories were different but we were both upset about the same thing.
KQ: Which was?
Manuela: Um… I think we both kind of felt like the other person wasn’t understanding us, or wasn’t trying to see it from our point of view.
Ruth: Yeah. I mean, I think when you’re stressed—or like in my case when I was already feeling really overwhelmed and afraid that I was going to mess up—you just snap at anyone who says or does any little thing to you. I remember later on that night right before I fell asleep I was thinking about how I really could have been a lot more patient with the kids that day. I really saw that being patient would have been better. But in the moment it was just too much for me. I just lost it.
Manuela: Yeah, me too. I felt really bad afterwards. I mean, I don’t think I ever said I hated someone before in my life, or definitely not to their face like that. But when you get mad, it’s like you’ll just say anything. Afterwards I felt bad. Because I made someone else feel bad.
|Ruth leading a rehearsal|
KQ: What would you say you learned from the experience of putting on the show?
Ruth: Well, I think that in terms of leadership… At first I thought that yelling was the answer, but it’s not. In the end, all I got out of yelling was that my voice just got tired. I feel like the kids respect you when you’re calm and clear. Like instead of screaming at them to get their attention I finally figured out I could just smile and be calm and say “OK, If you can hear me, clap once… If you can hear me clap twice…” and then little by little they’d settle. And since I’d just be standing there all chill, not calling anybody out or anything, there’d be a good vibe, they’d be ready to work.
Manuela: Yeah, that usually worked out much better.
Ruth: Oh, and I also learned that you also have to be really organized, because otherwise they see right through you. If you don’t have a good plan you end up needing all these little breaks to get yourself together and the kids get bored in the breaks.
Manuela: Yeah! If you have to take all that time to figure out what you’re doing next, we get all distracted and whatever… like we’re looking out the window and thinking we want to be someplace else. And even if we try do try to help the leader out sometimes and tell our teammates to be quiet, kids don’t really like that because they think you’re being bossy.
Ruth: Next thing you know you’re yelling and threatening to give detentions and the kids know you’re not going to follow through and they just ignore you. I don’t like yelling because then the other person just shuts down and you can’t do work. Also, it makes me feel young, like I’ve sunk to a lower level. Like I’m a five year old trying to lead five year olds. I poke you, you poke me back. But you don’t have to deal with that so much if you’re organized, and you’re calm and you show them you think they’re doing great. Then they do the right thing, mostly—not because they’re afraid of you, but because they’re excited and, you know, they want to make the show good. They’re willing to take a risk and go further than what they believe they can do. When they go beyond their own expectations, they get excited and the whole thing just flows.
KQ: What would you say was the most challenging thing about creating this show?
Manuela: Well, I think making theater is really hard. I mean, it was hard for me, because I’m not really good at making friends, I don’t trust people. So then I walk in here and I see all these people I don’t know, and I think, “Wow, there are all these people here that I think I’m probably not going to get along with.” You know, right from the beginning, thinking maybe they’re not going to like me or I’m not going to like them. But then you start working, and you get to know people. And sure, sometimes you have a conflict or whatever. But then after a while you look around and you’re like, “Wow. These people are like my best friends. It’s like we’re a really big family.”
Ruth: Yeah. I agree.
KQ: Ruth, after all your concern that the kids hated you… were you surprised by the way they went crazy cheering for you when you came out for the curtain call?
Ruth: Yeah, I was. It was really… sweet. It was great.