April 06, 2009

Senior variety show

You shoulda put a ring on it

Kids with dancing talent become choreographers and make their friends perform on stage after just a few weeks of practice. Singers take the microphone for a moment of fame. Musicians form bands, or duos at least. Kids get pulled into skits whether they have any dramatic talent or not. Parents and grandparents in the audience clap enthusiastically, even as they wonder about the pop-culture references that they didn’t quite get.

The high school tradition of holding a variety show to display the talents of graduating seniors came about sometime in the 1960s, during the heyday of television variety shows. By the time I graduated from high school in 1979, we seniors were borrowing heavily from Saturday Night Live for our skits and jokes, much to the dismay of the teachers who tried to censor some of our best lines. This senior class (which includes Shaggy Hair Boy, Skater Boy, Quick, and Blonde Niece) borrowed from reality TV shows and youtube to spice up their acts.

Some things haven’t changed. The Senior Girls skit was a high energy act filled with singing and dancing, and a crowded stage of young women. The Senior Guys skit was a laid-back circle of guys – and the skit was a running joke about how the guys didn't actually have a skit. That is ALWAYS the theme of the Guys' skit. In keeping with tradition, several skits mocked the teachers in school, especially everyone’s favorite teachers. The skits also made fun of cheerleaders, jocks, dorks, and pretty much every group of students. Shaggy Hair, Quick, and Kid Down the Street dressed as nerds for a funny skit that included math pick-up lines that they had written while studying Calculus. The corny lines included phrases like “let me take an approximation of your curves” and “you’re deriving me crazy.”

Heckling from the audience was encouraged. One kid did a Hulk impersonation, dramatically ripping off a t-shirt to reveal a green-painted chest, and because this got applause, he appeared in another skit a few acts later, ripping apart another t-shirt. Gender-swapping always gets cheers and wolf whistles with a high school audience. In one skit, Shaggy Hair appeared in a skirt, his long hair flowing down his back. (He said that the tank top he borrowed from his sister was “confusing” to put on, and he had to find a girl to help him every time.) Two boys wearing spandex joined a female classmate in a hilarious version of the “Single Ladies” dance, a tune which is now regrettably stuck in my head.

Mostly, the stage was filled with kids just having fun, goofing off in front of a packed auditorium of peers and parents. In one skit, a bunch of the kids wore capes and superhero costumes. In another, Quick led a whole classroom of kids in a Stomp-like drumming extravaganza, that began with a kid tapping his pencil on the desk and ended with everyone running round, leaping up onto desks, and banging everything from garbage cans to desktops.

It was fun to watch kids I’ve known for years cavort about the stage. And we got some glimpses of talent as well. Skater Boy and Quick did a White Stripes medley that sounded terrific. Skater Boy is such a quiet, laid-back kid that it always surprises me to see how much stage presence he has. Of course, Quick can play the drums way better than Meg White. His drum solo drew huge applause. The night ended with Quick's touching and very professional rendition of “Clare De Lune” on the piano as the seniors walked up the aisles, arms around each other, to sit on the stage and watch slides. They will be together for just a few more months.

The teenage boy in the photo is about to perform a dance to "Single Ladies."


Leslie F. Miller said...

What's funny is that we have been having dinner talking about the annual Gong Show—same thing, really. The schoolkids sign up to do acts—acting, singing, dancing, skits. And the winners get prizes.

Serena was in KIDS (a KISS lip-synch band) her first time out, and they took top honors. Next she and four other girls sang "Wade in the Water" and won again. This year, she is doing a band performance of "Surrender" with some other kids. They'll be the only ones playing their own instruments.

I love variety shows.

Artist Friend said...

I sang bass in a barbershop quartet in our senior talent show. I put a towel around the history teacher's shoulders and mushed sugary whipped topping all over his face. We sang "Wait 'Till the Sun Shines, Nellie," and at the end of the song, when the teacher tried to stand up and take the applause, I slapped him in the face with a big gob of cream. At the class reunion 30 years later, people still were talking about that.

Word verification: splatici--not kidding!

BlackenedBoy said...

This is one of my favorite posts so far. What a wonderful tradition! I adore putting on skits.

Arwen said...

Oh no oh no oh no! I just got that Single Ladies song out of my head... and here it comes again!

RageyOne said...

sounds like fun!

Magpie said...

Apologies, but have you seen this?

We never had a variety show in school - I feel gypped!

Anonymous said...

sounds like a good evening. I wish I'd had the chance to do things like that when I was younger.

Lomagirl said...

Once again, despite the unbearable weather,I find myself wanting to move close to you. In this case, I want my kids to have the community that your kids have in the school they attend; that sense of tradition that you experienced and they do to. I don't have that, being far from where I was raised, and not having the option to raise my kids there.
So, if you ever open your door to find a lomagirl and family on the doorstep, you'll know why. Otherwise, I'll just have to try and create that wherever I am.

landismom said...

Oh! We had to cancel our elementary school Talent Show this year, because not enough parents volunteered, and this just made me miss it that much more.