A parent coordinator writes: These days there is a lot of emphasis on school accountability and teacher accountability. But who is paying attention to parent accountability and finding ways to help parents become more involved? “Someone is always talking, measuring, criticizing — but not solving,” she writes.
After hours pouring glitter to create the yellow brick road on the backdrop, Helene Stapinski realizes: the set is so crowded, no one can even see it. That’s just one of the problems encountered as P.S. 29′s fifth-grade production of “The Wizard of Oz” heads toward opening night. The writer, a reluctant and then obsessive parent volunteer co-director, worries that the actors won’t be able to follow stage directions. And clearly some of the parents can’t follow directions, either.
P.S. 29′s fifth-grade musical is coming along, with parents putting the final touch on sets, costumes and staging. But even as the child actors’ jazz fingers are flying, they are fuming over the yelling and tension around the production. And, writes Helene Stapinski, so is her husband. “You guys don’t care if the kids have fun. You are doing this for you,” he tells her. Then it hits her: “My husband is right.”
The lesson of the Tin Man hits home at P.S. 29 in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, as the weather warms and the fifth-grade production of “The Wizard of Oz” continues to come together. Helene Stapinski, a parent volunteer who is co-producing the musical, writes in this week’s installment of “The Munchkins Are a Problem” about a school tragedy — and how the show goes on.
What seemed to be a cacophonous clump of performers is starting to sound like music and look like staging. For the first time since Helene Stapinski took on the task of co-directing the fifth-grade musical at P.S. 29 in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, things are starting to come together. With Mary Leigh’s lovely rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” she feels tears squeezing from her eyes — but not tears of frustration. “They look so much older than they did six months ago,” she writes wistfully, in this latest of weekly installments of “The Munchkins Are a Problem: One Mom’s Struggle to Direct the Fifth-Grade School Play.”
It’s set-building time in the land of Oz, which has been temporarily transported to P.S. 29 in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. Helene Stapinski, who has volunteered, reluctantly, to co-direct the fifth-grade musical, finds herself surrounded by talented fellow parents who are nailing, painting, grommeting and creating. She writes: “When the assistant principal sees the sets and the Kansas house with its trick spring, she starts to worry. Maybe we’re putting too much work into the show, that the sets will outshine the children. She says this to Gina, who then calls me in a rage. ‘Can you believe her? We’re making the sets look too nice! What does that even mean?’ ”The Board of Ed is used to mediocrity,’ I say, calming her, a strange role I’ve taken on lately.”
All of the Dorothys, Scarecrows and even poppies have been cast. The fifth-grade’s performers are officially in rehearsals for “The Wizard of Oz.” And the household of the amateur co-producer, Helene Stapinski, is in a tizzy. Her husband, she writes in the latest installment of her school musical saga, says she always loads too much on her “metaphorical life plate,” then takes her frustration and exhaustion out on him. ““He has a point,” she writes, “but I fight with him anyway. Because I always take it out on him.”
The Drama Club has been formed and the next step in producing “The Wizard of Oz” for the fifth-grade play is casting. Helene Stapinski, a reluctant — and inexperienced — parent producer, marvels at the children’s bravery. “How on earth can they get up there like that and sing in front of me?” she asks in the latest installment of “The Munchkins Are a Problem.” “Don’t they know I have no idea what I’m doing? That each and every one of them is better than I could ever be?”
What would you say if you unexpectedly ran into the state education commissioner? Two activist parents raised big issues with John B. King Jr. during a brief encounter recently in a cafeteria in Albany.
In last week’s installment of “The Munchkins Are a Problem,” Helene Stapinski wrote about how she reluctantly agreed to help produce the fifth-grade play at P.S. 29 in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. This week the Drama Club holds it first meeting. Note to other play parents: leave the weapons props at home.
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