82 5th Graders = 1 Variety Show


The KES Class of 2017 & KLSD Class of 2024

Life gets fun when individual talents can be used to create something completely original and much larger than one person. Because everyone has a talent necessary to the performance, we all have a part to play. Particularly in a Variety Show.

Some talents are obvious. The ability to sing, dance, or make someone laugh. The ability to play an instrument or perform acts of physical daring-do. A wicked sense of humor, a musical ear, the guts to stand up alone and sing into a microphone, deadpan comedic timing are oases of fun in the endless desert of everyday life.

On the way to last Friday’s 5th Grade Variety Show, my daughter (a 5th grader) and I talked about the number of artists it takes to create the image of one artist. “Mom, do you know how much work goes into creating a ‘pop star’?” Before working on the Variety Show she never really thought about it but her experiences over the past month got her thinking. “So, when Katy Perry or any other singer is singing, we’re really watching the work of a thousand of other artists who are circling behind the stage creating the dances, scenery, wardrobes, makeup, and everything else that makes Katy Perry, the performer.”

We talked about Broadway musicals where before the acclaimed performers even step on the stage, the costumes, staging, lighting, musical accompaniment are performed multiple times a day at a level that is deservedly, world renowned.

As your hand holds a microphone, your stagehand hoists the curtain.

The kids at this year’s 5th Grade Variety Show delivered a wonderful mélange of performances, all of which showcased their theatrical and comedic talents. These kids rocked it. Some kids managed to pull off synchronized swimming on a stage. Two girls delivered a beat poet worthy performance of Red Fish, Blue Fish, complete with drums and a hoola hoop. Piano solos, choreographed dances, costumes, Hamilton, enough cow bell to delight Christopher Walken: this Variety show had it all.

The performers deserve kudos for taking the time and energy to learn, rehearse, and hone their acts and then perform them for a packed gymnasium of families, friends, and classmates. That’s a level of gravitas that must be applauded.

And behind the stage a different performance was delivered. The kids who sat in darkness, wearing black so as to not be seen, silently crept about working the lighting, ropes, organizing props, and microphones. Armed with mini flashlights and exacting natures, these kids happily followed directions, one by one, each step necessary to complete the marathon of Variety Show performance. If all the world’s a stage, the players back stage set the world in motion.

The performers behind the stage worked in synchronicity with the on stage performers to create a tangible piece of art for the KES community. It was quite remarkable.

For the final number, all the 5th graders wore the same t-shirt and sang that song We Go Together from Grease.

But the most astonishing aspect of the performance was one that played out in the cafeteria during the show. And it wasn’t a performance at all.

Backstage, every 5th grader was given a t-shirt to wear during the finale. Because each t-shirt was ordered specifically for each child, each t-shirt had the kid’s name on the tag and on the freezer bag in which it was stored. The t-shirts were organized by teacher and each classroom was organized alphabetically. [Esther Strnad should win an award called Award for Best Ordering and Organizing.]  As each act came off the stage, the players were given their t-shirts. All empty plastic bags were kept in alphabetical order and the kids were told that after the final act, all shirts must come back to be refolded and re-bagged, to be worn again on their class trip to Chelsea Piers.

I spent Act 2 in the cafeteria obsessively organizing t-shirts. And I watched nearly all of the 82 KES 5th graders, boys and girls, filled with adrenaline and nervous energy snack on pretzels, chat with their classmates, flip water bottles, occasionally spit into the fan to see what would happen, congratulate, and high five each other. They encouraged each other, delivered constructive criticism in the most polite manner, and were, surprisingly, together. Towards the end, the backstagers came running along for their t-shirts and excitedly joined their classmates. It wasn’t an Upstairs, Downstairs situation. It wasn’t divided. They were remarkably united.

That song from Grease is mostly gibberish, containing only a handful of coherent lyrics.

But those lyrics are fitting for this year’s 5th Grade Variety Show:

We go together, remembered forever, that’s the way it should be, yeah.

We’re one of a kind, our names are signed, we’ll always be like one.

We’re for each other, just like my brother, we’ll always be together.

– Anne Foray