Saturday, September 8th, 9 a.m.
I arrived at our rehearsal space, Paulin Memorial Church, nice and early for our 9:30 start time, to get things set up before the kids arrive. I’d already had a flurry of last-minute messages from parents that morning, and my energy and excitement levels are through the roof. I couldn’t wait to get this season rolling.
I was not alone. One parent had already posted on Facebook, “I was woken up at 6:20 to hear ‘mom – good morning it’s Riverfront Day!’ 😳😂❤️😘.” And according to her, by 7 a.m. when she arrived in the kitchen to start breakfast, her son was at the front door with his backpack on, waiting to head out!
It seems they largely managed to contain that eager beaver, and most of the rest of the kids, because when I arrived at 9, only one student was arriving with me. Ryan immediately made himself useful, as always, helping us (my daughters were with me) setting up the tables and get the library room straightened out to make room for our Juniors.
It seemed seconds later, and was certainly well before 9:30, that our main basement room was full of people – and we have a LOT of new kids this year, so it was actually pretty quiet, as a whole bunch of people stood around looking tense and uncomfortable, and nervous. We started greeting them individually, here and there, and pairing up experienced RTC kids with newcomers so they’d start to break the ice.
Now, please forgive me. It’s a distracting day when 72 students and their families descend on us all at once (1 student was out of the country for the first week. We’ll be SEVENTY-THREE by next week – crazy!). I didn’t get as many photos as I planned. In fact, I didn’t get any, and have stolen a couple of screenshots from the two videos I shot. The last photo in this blog entry was given to me by a parent later on.
We gave a brief introductory speech and orientation, introduced the crew, and divided the kids up between Juniors and Seniors, the Juniors heading off with Jeffrey, our Musical Director, and, this year, the director of the Juniors as well for their Christmas play, and his two student volunteers, Perla and Caitlyn. It wasn’t long before we heard the giggles coming from that room, and then the songs starting, as they quickly began to get to know one another and even to start singing together. It doesn’t take a die-hard music teacher very long to break the ice with little ones. Jeff’s a giant teddy bear, and well-loved by all our students. The Juniors are going to have a real treat working with him for their first three months!
Meanwhile, in the Senior room, we were very quickly getting down to business. We spent the first hour breaking them into groups to try to get them to know one another a little and introduce their peers in a sort of speed-contest, which got a lot of laughs as everyone tried to remember six things about everyone in their groups.
Then we got started introducing Mary Poppins, and having a quick look-see at what it’s all about and what some of our plans are for that. We didn’t get through the whole story, but we got nearly half-way. We did not plan to start in with any of the music on our first day in. That plan…changed. As things do, at RTC!
After a lunch break, where some more unwinding happened, we pulled everyone back together again, and by this time, everyone had relaxed and started to enjoy themselves.
We will be auditioning the Shakespeare Festival, Where There’s a Will, first, in our line-up of productions, and that’s happening next week, so we took some time to quickly give them a run-down of the three plays and the skits and emcee plans for the show, and to read through parts of the involved scripts. But then, all of a sudden, our Musical Director and his assistant, Meredith, were in another room and we could hear some Mary Poppins things going on, and people were casting intrigued eyes that way…and we started dividing things up. Before we knew it, we were inviting people to come in for their first exposures to some of the music, character by character, and the main room devolved into some very healthy improve games, and then, by 3:15, the ENTIRETY of the Senior cast was in the library (which is quite funny, because it’s the smaller of our two big rooms), and having their very first exposure to “Supercalifragalisticexpialidocious!”
There was no real warm up. There were no vocal scores. There was no listening to the recorded song first. They just…jumped in.
Was it as messy and chaotic as a first, unprepared run-through could possibly be? It was. No denying it, and I’m not sharing our video here. But it was just so very RIVERFRONT. What do we want to do? SING! When do we want to do it? WHENEVER WE CAN! So…they started. And by the end, we had parents drifting into the vicinity, some of whom were probably wondering, wow, how does this happen this fast? And I don’t know what to say. This is theatre, and this is what it does to kids. They get sucked in quickly, and they immerse themselves, and very, very quickly feel that RTC is a family and a home away from home. And it happened again on Saturday.
It’s going to be very fun to compare that first video to their final production.
On we shall go, to great things, and great times for the rest of the season! Next weekend, we’ll be introducing the November production to the Seniors, and having a real read-through of the Junior script – though some of them are already keen to get to know it and have plunged right in, as young Lily demonstrated in the car on the way home from a day and a half at Stratford that started right after rehearsal on Saturday!
And then, of course, we’ll have an afternoon with the Seniors, where we’ll be auditioning them for our Shakespeare festival, and starting to teach them some of the dance they’ll need for dance auditions! Busy, busy! I have a sneaking suspicion that some of the vocals are going to be sneaking in again here and there. After all – anything can happen, if you let it!