I cried this morning when I read the closing lines of Doug Smith's column, "Don't stay away long, Mary Poppins. The children need you," because it is my first day as an unemployed elementary school drama teacher.
More than five years ago, with an outstanding high school drama program already in place and aware of the tremendous benefits children can derive from learning acting skills and participating in performance, the La Canada Unified Schools created the position of Elementary Drama Consultant. At the same time, Assistance League of Flintridge established the Children's Drama Workshop, an after-school ensemble for 10- to 12-year-olds. I was hired as teacher/director of both programs.
In the school program, children received instruction in a variety of acting and public speaking skills, and, though performance was not necessarily a goal, we produced no fewer than 18 plays each year. Most productions were full-scale musicals with casts of anywhere from 28 to 105 actors.
Children who may never have set foot on a stage before sang, danced and acted with verve and intensity and drew rave reviews.