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This page is my e-newsletter, changing with the seasons (or whenever I get a chance to sit down and write.) Feel free to send comments, suggestions, or even jokes.

Charlie Brown a Great Hit!

This spring I directed the musical, "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" at the Brophy Elementary School in Framingham, MA. The cast consisted of twenty 3rd through 5th graders, most of whom had never performed onstage before. When I put out the call to see who was interested in being in the show, thirty students responded. However, due primarily to space restraints, I limited the cast to twenty. I revised the script, adding extra parts from the strips and my daughter's collection of Peanuts books so that each character would have at least one line. I cut a few of the songs which I thought would be too hard ("Book Report" and "The Kite.")

Several parents volunteered to be my production staff: Collen Biron, a wonderful Boston Conservatory trained choreographer; Leslie Lomot, who served as rehearsal pianist and general advisor; Amira Acre Grosser, a Julliard-trained pianist who painstakingly rehearsed with the soloists and played the show; and Andrew Amster, an incredible artist who co-designed and painted our gorgeous sets. Other parents coordinated costumes and the program; my 12-year-old daughter Alison organized the props and her side of the backstage area; others ultimately helped backstage.

I hadn't directed a show in four years, so it was particularly wonderful re-discovering all of the exercises and warm-ups which I used to help the children focus, discover and develop their characters, and foster community. Over the course of ten weeks and eleven full-cast rehearsals, the children pulled together. My nine-year-old daughter played Charlie Brown with just the right sense of bewilderment and frustration. Her voice carried both "The Baseball Game" and "Happiness" to new heights. Another third-grader played Snoopy. It was amazing and gratifying to see her grow into the part, until both of her solo numbers, "Suppertime" and "Snoopy", emerged as rollicking show-stoppers. We added a great song from the Broadway revival, "My New Philosophy," and found that the third-grader cast as Sally Brown had an incredible voice she never realized she possessed - her mother promised to find her a voice teacher as soon as the show was over.

Others grew remarkably, as well. One of the girls with a very small part emerged as our primary stagehand. She took her role very seriously - always running on with the crate or prop at the crucial time. Jennie, the girl who played Lucy, gave an oral report to her fourth-grade classroom a few days before the show. Her teacher made a point of telling me that Jennie's public speaking skills had improved remarkably from the beginning of the year.

I love being involved in the technical aspects of a production as well as directing. We rented a gorgeous follow spot (light) and used it not only to compensate for the lack of sufficient stagelights, but also to highlight the soloists and bring color to the show. I agonized over the sets and props, working with Andy and my daughter Alison to design it all, which was particularly difficult since we couldn't use the stage until five days before the show. It ultimately worked seamlessly - a single platform downstage left served as a variety of locations; three flats upstage represented scenes from the strips; a perfectly Schulzian doghouse upstage right was inhabited by Snoopy; two crates served as stools, the TV, the pitcher's mound.

The performances for the school and for parents and friends were on June 4th. Now, at the end of the month, my daughters are still talking about it, re-living moments. Alison is writing a new musical, "Charlie Brown II," with different characters singing their hearts out to the already established tunes. All of the cast and parents have begged me to do another show next year. They've discovered the magic of theater, and want to experience it again and again. So do I.

Summer Listening

My newest CD, "Watermelon! and other Stories," got a lovely review in an article about me in the Metrowest Daily News (Sunday, June 22.) "For anyone with children ages 4 and up, this is a must for the car this summer, or for a bedtime treat for all," writes correspondent Maggie Head Meehan. She goes on to detail some of my accomplishments and quotes from our interview, and summarizes one of the stories. The article concludes with, "Accompanied with instruments and children's voices, the songs will inspire everyone to sing along, and there is a magical story, "Alexandra and the Seashell," set in Brookline and on Cape Cod, that is ideal for summer listening - whether on the beach, in the comfort of a mother's lap, or to the peaceful rhythm of a porch swing."

The whole text of the article can be found at www.metrowestdailynews.com for June 22, page C7.

To order "Watermelon! and Other Stories," click HERE.
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