There’s More to Community Than the Store

Josie Leavitt -- February 15th, 2010

Living in a small town affords chances to participate in the community in interesting ways. Friday night I found myself hosting the fourth annual Charlotte Central School K-8 Variety Show. Being the bookstore owner who performs comedy in a town of 3,500 means I get whoops and hollers when I start the show. The whoops are not for me, they’re for the bookstore, which is wonderful. One of the stagehands, an eighth grader whose been shopping at the store since she was born, commented, "Do you think there’s anyone in the audience who hasn’t been to the Flying Pig?" Bless her heart.

Emceeing a variety show that begins with the kindergartners acting out Do Re Mi is just about the cutest thing ever. Picture 40 squirming five-year-olds who are on stage too long before their song starts. They are pulling their underwear, picking their noses, bouncing up and down and generally ignoring their teachers at the foot of the stage trying to get them to be still. The song started and it was lovely.

A variety show usually consists of kids who sing, surprisingly well, but suffer the same problems as contestants on American Idol: poor song selection. Not every 10 year-old should sing Lady Gaga, really no one should sing Lady Gaga. There were a lot of poets at this show and I applaud them. To get up in front of 500 people, most of them other kids, and recite poetry is a brave act. One girl, Hannah, read a poem she had written herself. The poem was called "The Wheelchair," about her grandmother and the time Hannah was confined to a wheelchair after breaking her leg last year. It was moving, beautiful and stunningly sophisticated. One thing about the MC is I can’t let my normally mush-ball self take over and tear up when moved. So, after Hannah’s poem, I gathered myself and introduced the next act: basketball-throwing third graders. Nothing like a huge juxtaposition to shake me out of a sad moment.

I have been emceeing this show for four years and in that time I’ve never seen anyone act out a book, until this year. A lovely third grader took it upon herself to interpret Go Dog Go. She made all the dogs herself, the tree (well, this is Vermont, she just grabbed a branch from a tree in her yard) and the backdrop. She read loudly with conviction and ended to rousing applause. When she finished I remembered that Go Dog Go was my breakthrough "learn to read" book. To see an eight-year-old embrace one of my childhood favorites in such a creative way was heartwarming to say the least.

In the words of a bouncy kindergartner after Do Re Mi, "I had so much fun."

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