Emergency Drama Teacher

Posted: September 1, 2013 in The World Needs More Canada

emergency drama teacher


I am in Canada, co-leading a team of teenagers who are helping to run a kids’ summer arts camp with a local church. The groups have all been sent off, and I have been left with the drama kids. Camp Director Gary pulls me aside.


“Dan, the drama leader hasn’t turned up this morning. Would you be alright to run the group?”


I am a Street Invader, and Street Invaders do the difficult. Only I’m a leader! So I can’t just do the difficult, I have to nail it. I think of Joey Tribbiani, and smile. At least it’s not the dance group. Nobody could blag that.




Gary smiles.




He tells me the schedule as I half-listen/half-plan some loosely-drama-based activities to run flawlessly in 25 seconds time. Fortunately, I was trained by legendary LifeFORCE drama guru Hoop. Only these aren’t gap-year students….!


….These are sixyear-olds!


I decide to take Whose Line Is It Anyway? and boil it down to child-level rice. A small portion. With turmeric to make it look more like a PS3 game. I force suddenly-subordinates Undseth and Shine to run an impromptu game while I write some characters for the kids to dig their teeth into. This will be ace.


This will be pilau.



A few minutes later I’ve created characters. Characters with character. And backstories. An 18th century detective. An emotionally scarred soldier returning from Iraq. We start to play, and I am inundated with stupid kids stupidly not understanding their delicately honed character profiles. I am disappointed by their lack of artistry, but begrudgingly simplify.


“Right, who were you Beth-Ann? An oncology consultant? You can be… a fairy.”


I smile, and watch as Shine tries to guess what all the sharks and fairies dancing around and eating each other are. I plan more games, and decide that I can’t wait for the actual drama leader to arrive tomorrow. We play more games, and the kids laugh. A lot. I smile. And collapse.



It is day two, and Shine and Undseth are already playing with the children. They’re Street Invaders, and making me proud. Camp Director Gary arrives, and pulls me to one side.


“So Dan, the lady we had to do the drama isn’t coming again today. I told her not to bother coming for the two days after today. Would you be alright to be the group’s official teacher?”


Oh no!

“Oh, yeah.”


Gary smiles.




I smile. And my brain rushes into the room with the big red ’emergency default action man settings’ button in it. It’s about to press the panic button when Gary says something else.


“Oh, and by the way. We normally like to get them to learn a bit of a play. Normally something like a bible story. David and Goliath. You know, that sort of thing. With you narrating the story.”


I smile, because I now have something to do with the kids! I thank Gary, and commission Shine and Undseth to run some more fairy and shark-based games while I make a plan for the drama. I decide that if I’m going to do a bible story, I should do a good one. David & Goliath are fine. But what about something juicy? The bible’s full of stuff that would give kids nightmares! What about that woman who hammered a tent peg in that bloke’s head? Or the left-handed James Bond fella? Or that muscly bloke who had a haircut?





What about….?


Yes! Why not do the goriest story of all? A story about a man who gets so battered and cut up that he doesn’t even look human! Genius! The crucifixion and the resurrection! It’ll be like a cross between Reservoir Dogs and Monsters Inc.!


The kids play a lot of games, while I write an entire play at the back of the room. I look at the bible, and decide that it’s too full of waffle for this, so decide to paraphrase.


It’ll probably be fine.



The next day arrives, and we run the play. And it’s ace fun! I say “then Mary said ‘oh no!'” and then the girl playing Mary says a really soft, unconcerned “oh no.” It’s comedy gold, and we have a great time. The day ends, and we all meet back in the main hall where parents are waiting. Camp Director Gary takes the mic.


“Ok folks, just so you know, tomorrow there’s going to be a presentation of what your kids have been doing this week, including some artwork, some dancing and a drama production.”


Hang on… oh no! The play’s appalling! It’s long grain! The kids don’t know their lines and we’ve only ran through it once! This is terrible!


We go home and I take Co-Leader Long Distance Claire-a aside and tell her my fears. She reassures me that it’s probably not going to be that bad, and that you can’t expect much from a guy with no preparation time. I smile, but don’t know if even a Brit can handle the awkwardness coming.



It is the day of, and I’ve asked the team for prayer, because this play will be the biggest shambles any of them have ever seen. And from a Street Invader!


They smile.


I explain what ‘shambles’ means, and they pray. As Camp Director Gary appears. He pulls me aside and tells me that he’s remembered the stock cupboard with a load of old props from dramas past, including children’s sizes, and even a roman officer’s armour! I stare with excitement, and plan some costumes. Costumes! Just like a real rubbish play! I am excited, and tell the kids the good news. We rehearse, and take our places onstage ready for game on. Camp Director Gary introduces me…


…and it’s game on.


We run through the play with exactly the same patheticness, but something’s wrong….


it’s not awkward…!


Parents are laughing!


Everybody’s laughing! The kids hilariously wander round the stage at my over-the-microphone behest and it is brilliant. Comedy gold. We finish to rapturous applause and I am relieved. I sit back down and smile, as the show comes to a close, and one of the moms of the kids in my group gives me a Boston Pizza gift card! I smile. As Long Distance Claire-a appears.


“Dan! I don’t know what you were worrying about. That was so funny! You nailed it!”


I wink.


“It was pilau.


I smile, and explain what pilau means.



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