|“How Can I Keep from Singing?”|
performed by the all-school chorus.
Ananda Family News
Thursday, March 26, 2015
In Living Wisdom School’s 22-year run of exceptional performances, this year’s play was a first. As always, its subject was an inspiring spiritual figure, but for the first time it was also a scientist: George Washington Carver. As the introductory scene acknowledged, science and religion have not always gotten along well together, but in today’s society it’s important to be reminded that they can, and indeed, should. The fusion of the two also paralleled the post-Civil War struggle for racial integration that was another major thread throughout the play.
The music throughout the production featured two songs as its main themes: “How Can I Keep from Singing?,” a beautiful hymn in tune with Carver’s optimistic and indomitable spirit, and “Amen,” a joyful, hand-clapping gospel classic. This year also included a number of dance choreographies, among them an adorable ballet of nature devas healing sick flowers to the music of “The Blue Danube,” one of Yogananda’s favorites. Dance was also used very effectively in some of the action scenes — a Civil War battle and a mob scene — to soften the scary moments for some of the younger children while still conveying the intensity of those events.
The play excelled not only as entertainment, but as a history lesson, with the events coming to life before our eyes. Anyone who grew up in the United States probably remembers reading, for instance, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in school. But hearing these words in context, recited by students putting their hearts into it, conveys the power of that speech at that moment in a way no textbook can. We’re lucky to have many original quotes from George Washington Carver himself as well, conveying his consciousness all the more directly.
Far beyond mere rote memorization, participation in the play develops deeper skills in the students, including flexibility and grace under pressure. An example: For the final evening, several children were unable to perform. With the entire school already fully involved, there had been no bandwidth to assign or train understudies. So just before showtime, the director simply asked who else in the cast knew the missing students’ lines. The volunteers stepped into their new roles with all the confidence of actors who had paid complete attention in rehearsals even to scenes that were not originally their own.
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