Mary Poppins Jr At Central Public

My daughter, Willa, was dragging herself around the house a bit this morning. Her stomach hurt, she said, and she was listless. Wrapping the cat up in a blanket and gleefully stifling its every attempt for freedom was about all she could manage.

I suspect there are a lot of tired kids at her school – Central Public – right now. Their production of Mary Poppins Jr runs next week, on the 16th and 17th, and rehearsals are the order of the day. I think there’s a full run-through today, and costumes are being sewn, and re-sewn, or are arriving in the mail and being fitted, held up admiringly to the keenest young actors you ever could see. The lights in the gym are powered, must be, by the eternal buzzing about of the cast and crew.

I think there’s an awful lot to recommend this endeavour. It impresses me to no end, for example, that almost every kid at the school is playing a part. I just don’t know how you convince an entire population to give its all. 

 I like also that it’s not just boys playing boys and girls playing girls. Simon and Willa are sharing the part of Mary Poppins, for example. Even in quiet ways like that, the production team, helmed by indefatigable director Andrew Cotton, is teaching the kids their lines and their dance moves, sure, but imparting some important life lessons too. 

The play is the main topic of conversation for all of the Central parents I run into. And that ebb and flow of enthusiasm and fatigue is something beautiful and heartening. The neighbourhood we live in teems right now with shattered smiles and nervous energy.

There are interviews to be conducted too. CKWS is having a few actors onto its early morning show on Thursday. I look forward to those charming minutes about as much as I do to a summer holiday.  And the Whig is talking to them as well. Our crossing guard, Ken, gets updates every morning and afternoon.

The play’s the thing, I get that. I like seeing Willa’s script on the kitchen table when I get up, and I like hearing her sing in another room. I like her tales from the rehearsals, who’s crushing it and who’s a bit nervous. But I’m moved by all these goings on in part because I’m moved by Central Public in general.  

It’s as fine a school as I’ve been exposed to, better than any I ever attended. I can’t imagine a principal better than Jen Lawless, or a more committed faculty. In this age and this moment when teachers are being laid off by a provincial government which argues that it will make our kids “more resilient” (the desperately sad and wilfully dumb rationale of someone who must barely have attended any school at all, is my thought), it’s worth thinking for a moment on just how rare a school play might be in the years to come in Ontario. 

I hope I’m wrong, and mostly assume that I am - is there a more selfless job out there than teacher, after all? – but I’d still humbly suggest you buy yourself a ticket to one of next week’s shows, settle in to witness our wonderful kids at their very best and then, because the moment moves you, sing!