7 March 2014
5 Adar II 5774
Last night, along with a full house of parents, students, teachers, and friends, I watched in awe as our students performed the musical comedy “Pippin.” They lit up the stage with their talent and energy and were, just as the show is, larger than life. It seemed to me that, in the case of this show, ironically, the medium ran counter to the message.
As our talented director, Jason Slavick, explains in the Directors’ Note, one of the themes, or, at least, essential questions of the play is whether there is any value to a young person’s quest to do something special, to find meaning, to be extraordinary. Perhaps, the show suggests, there is not. At the same time, there were our students, from actors to crew to techies to ushers, creating something magical and extraordinary.
“Everything has its season, everything has its time,” Pippin sings. “Rivers belong where they can ramble, eagles belong where they can fly . . . got to find my corner of the sky.” This song reminds me of Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) 4:3, in which Ben Azzai teaches: “Do not scorn any person, and do not discount any thing; for there is no person who has not his hour, and no thing that has not its place.” Maybe Pippin’s problem is that, in his profoundly human longing to find his extraordinary place, he looks past “ordinary” people, relationships, and experiences and forgoes opportunities to experience ordinary happiness. Ben Azzai’s teaching is an ethical mandate about how we are to relate to others and the world around us; it may also contain a formula for finding happiness in our beautifully ordinary world.
The power of Gann’s theater program and of the theater, more broadly, is precisely its fulfillment of Ben Azzai’s dictum: everyone has a place, no matter how large or small, how out-in-front or behind the scenes. From the moment you approach the Bernice Krupp Black Box Theater, you get the feeling that everyone has a unique and essential role to play in the creation of the production. Everyone has his hour, everyone has her place, and every student actually can find his or her “corner of the sky.”
This is extraordinary, and it is a model for what a community and a high school can and should be.
Rabbi Marc Baker