As many of you know, Dr. Timothy Shea, Associate Professor of English at Millersville, has been teaching secondary humanities at an international school in Kenya for a two-year leave of absence. Here is his story of directing his first middle school play. (Photos courtesy of Dr. Shea)
Though it has been over a decade since I last directed a show, I always hoped I would be able to do it again. I was able to experience this reality in February when I directed the middle school production of the Roald Dahl classic, The Fantastic Mr. Fox at Rosslyn Academy in Nairobi, Kenya. Directing any theatrical production can be a challenge in the best of conditions but doing so in a developing country has its own unique challenges like finding the right paint for the set or the appropriate makeup that works with all skin tones or even how to amplify sound in the middle of a torrential tropical storm. Thankfully, I have directed plays in other countries before (Indonesia and Papua New Guinea), so I was prepared for the unexpected. I was also lucky that my school has a rich tradition of theatrical performances with high standards and a talented community who is willing to do whatever they can to pull off a good show.
I must admit, I had forgotten just how much energy middle schoolers have and directing a cast of 30 energetic young teens felt at times like herding cats, but, what I discovered in the midst of the chaos and mayhem was that not only were these kids having fun, but they were also growing in ways that they nor I thought possible. They learned to embrace their fears and to try new things – new voices, new body poses because, after all, most of them were furry creatures! One of my goals as director is to get the entire community involved so that we could feel that it was OUR show and not MY show. I was blessed with parents and teachers who volunteered with makeup, costumes, set, lights, sound, and drama coaching. The end result was a memorable show that included a nasty farmer falling off the stage and a rat who acted a bit too drunk at times! Local critics (aka high school actors) lauded our show as “the best middle school school they had ever seen” and little kids stood in line after the show to get our young actors’ autographs.
I am glad I took the plunge and took on this show even though it has taken me 2 weeks to get back my lost sleep!
-Dr. Timothy Shea