It's 1989 and things are lookin' up... side-down.
The final year of junior high was heavy for my 8th grade class at Live Oak Waldorf School.
We’d bonded unusually deep; our eccentric education, overseen by the same, stern woman annually and paid for by unconventional, often dysfunctional parents, made us peers not just of age and fads, but in isolation: we weren’t represented in popular culture – there weren’t Cosby kids too poor to afford clothes or dental work; INXS wasn’t singing about the world of antiquity, accompanied by recorder ensemble; the cast on Facts of Life never gathered in a bi-monthly circle to share from their hearts until everyone wept and atoned and affirmed admiration for each other – then broke for their next class on American folk dancing.
"I'm afraid being raised without an understanding of more mainstream, cultural norms
is going to handicap my trajectory in life, Tootie."
The final months of that semester were strange; our lessons became devoted to one, final project: a run of Shakespeare’s As You Like It, barely edited, performed for the public by either of two casts, each featuring the same students in alternate roles.
It was our teacher’s idea this would avoid certain students having all the glory of lead parts. While well-intended, it instead ensured that shier kids who’d have preferred to skip the spotlight, couldn’t; it meant everyone had two characters to memorize – quite a task, considering this was most pupils’ introduction to iambic pentameter – and made what would have been the natural, unfriendly phenomena of critical comparison between kids’ acting skills even more impossible to avoid.