Me versus 175 high schoolers, that was my job today. At ten a.m. I lead them on a backstage tour. I talked with them about scenic design, gels and the fly rail. At eleven we played some games that required running around, counting, and making shapes with our bodies.
Before the show started I reminded them to keep their feet off the seats, and to put their cell phones in the deepest recess of their backpacks. At two p.m. the lights dimmed, I sat at the back of the house, and hoped to be swept up into the performance together. I got my wish. After about twenty minutes I saw them begin to lean forward in their seats. Half an hour in, they had laughed, gasped, and after an hour a few of them may have had tears in their eyes. I wanted them to have their hearts changed by a darkened space. It’s what happened to me while sitting on a cold cafétorium floor in fourth grade. I wanted these students to WONDER. I wanted them to realize that art can satisfy them much more than energy drinks and Twizzlers.
When the show ends I’ll run to the front of the stage and ask them some questions about what they saw. The actors will come back to the stage and one will tell the kids what it’s like for her to kiss someone she isn’t really in love with. And another will tell how he got started in acting when he broke his collarbone playing football. I want just five of those 175 students to say ‘I will try that.’
Then the students will climb onto their buses, and I will say another prayer of thanks for being able to do what I love most every day I am alive. And could those students please remember it for a few hours, at least? And please Lord, could I please get some health benefits next year? That performance will never again happen again the way it did this afternoon. That’s what my job is on a good day, just me, a bunch of teenagers: and a fleeting moment of art
About the author: Miranda Giles teaches at The Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City. She spends most of her days exaggerating her past, and she’s a Mormon.