One part art. One part story. One part love. Mix together: The result is magic.
Kids from Manor Park Public School in Ottawa brought together a community with their production of The Lion King Jr.
I once told my children to think of school as a community. Instead of the physical building and walls that surround them, think of the people: your friends, teachers, parents, staff. And how you not only learn "subjects" but things about yourself and others.
The school play is a seven-month project. Practices start in October, culminating with sold-out performances near the end of April. Every year it gets better and better.
This was the first year my son was involved in the play. I saw firsthand the amount of work that goes into the show. Early-morning practices. Set building, painting and production days. Hearing him singing and dancing at home, rehearsing his lines.
I looked forward to the show as the months passed. It's funny—I watch so much of his sports, to the point where it feels old hat. But for this play, I feel a much different kind of nervous energy for him.
As the audience files in, the gymnasium is dimly lit. Warm ambiance. Definite air of anticipation. Parents, grandparents, friends, eager to see the performance.
So many smiles. A moment for people to reconnect with each other. I run into a few old friends, some whom I've lost touch with. We all talk about how busy we are, how we manage our lives. Nice to catch up and just—talk.
The show is about to start. Quiet.
A gaggle of wonderfully-costumed children fill the space in front of the stage. Wow, such detail! A collective ooh ... The curtain opens, revealing characters, sets, backdrop, props—stunning. They break out into song. The room is filled with passion, these kids—our kids—belting out music, their lines. As the play develops, we see lions, hyenas, wildebeest. Grasslands, giraffes, cheetahs. Birds, rabbits, antelope; rhinos, zebras. Mandrill, hornbill. Warthog and meerkat.
We are transported to another world. Proud parents, grandparents, family, friends.
It's amazing what a shared story can do. We're wired to embrace stories, narratives. We all root for the kids. For those of us with children in the play, we pay that extra focus on our own, understandably. I feel so nervous for my boy. His first lines come out just right, and I know he'll be fine.
I stare at him, in his regal costume. I admire his bravery—all the kids' bravery. At getting in front of hundreds of people. Leaving it all out there. I think this must be so affirming, a life-changing experience for them. Something they'll remember the rest of their lives. Parents high-five other parents, compliment them on their kids' performances. It's neat to watch so many of my son's friends in the play. Their expressions, their passion.
I'm amazed at the work and effort put in by the entire cast, crew and teachers. At the countless unpaid hours put in by teachers, parent volunteers. At giving this opportunity for the kids to discover new things about themselves. To develop confidence. To take risks and work together toward a common goal.
Beautiful voices. I could listen to this all day.
One line from a song sticks with me:
He lives in you. He lives in me. He watches over. Everything we see.
Wellspring of emotion. I don't want it to end. We are enthralled by story, their whimsy, humour.
Sometimes things are so beautiful you have to cry. Like when your child is born. Like when you're so happy for a couple tying the knot. Like when your kid snuggles up to you, says an unprompted "I love you."
Like when watching this play.
Our children live in us. We live in them.
The Manor Park 2018 production of The Lion King Jr was not just a play.
It was art. It was story. It was love.
It was magic.