Friday, March 8, 2002
Encouraging performing arts in our schools
It's that time of year again, when butterflies are in season. Not in the caterpillar-and-cocoon sense (except metaphorically), but the flutter-in-the-stomach variety. It's theater season for many of our students, as Carlisle seventh graders rehearse for Bye Bye Birdie (performances are April 4, 5 & 6), and high school students tackle the final weekend of Anything Goes at CCHS.
This is the perfect time to celebrate and encourage performing arts in the schools, for the benefits they provide our budding actors, singers and dancers, as well as the musicians in the pit orchestra, the backstage crew, those who run the lights and sound, build the sets and manage the props. A theatrical production is an ideal example of teamwork, requiring dedication and hard work. Then comes the payoff a successful show, bursts of applause, a sense of accomplishment. For many of these children, the seventh-grade play will awaken and nurture a lifelong enjoyment of the performing arts.
As for how well Carlisle is preparing its students for the performing arts in high school and beyond, the current production of Anything Goes offers some insight. As usual, Carlisle students dominate the pit orchestra. The crew also features Carlisle students in key positions in lighting, sound and props. In both of these categories, student participation easily reflects the estimated one-third ratio in numbers of Carlisle to Concord students at the high school.
But the good news and the bad news lie in the number of Carlisle students performing on stage during Anything Goes. Of 60 performers, only ten are from Carlisle, nine of whom attended Carlisle schools. This means that instead of our expected one-third ratio of Carlisle to Concord students, we have less than a one-sixth showing on stage. Four of the talented Carlisle students are graduating seniors, one is a junior, one is a sophomore (who attended schools elsewhere until ninth grade) and four are freshmen.
The good news lies with these four freshmen. Since we're talking numbers, consider this encouraging fact: only ten freshmen were chosen for Anything Goes. This means that these new Carlisle students have not only met but exceeded the anticipated one-third ratio to Concord students. It appears there is reason to hope that Carlisle students are now receiving better preparation for high school performing arts.
What has changed? A major development is that vocal music is strong again in the Carlisle schools. When a budget override failed in the early 1990s, the chorus program (among others) took a huge hit, and it has taken nearly a decade to build it back up again. Within the past four years, the school has hired music teachers Angela DiPace (pre-K-third grade) and Catherine Pringle (grades 4-8), and under their direction, the chorus program has flourished. With Catherine Pringle on maternity leave, the school has brought on Liz Smith, who is directing the seventh- grade play and teaching theater arts classes at the school.
Yet even as we celebrate the performing arts in the Carlisle Schools, we are aware that they are threatened, in a sadly familiar way, by this year's looming budget concerns and call for an override. Now that Carlisle Schools have established the reputation for excellence that our town and children (and property values) deserve, they are again in danger of disheartening setbacks. Clearly, when given the chance, Carlisle students can compete and excel. Let's hope they continue to get that chance.
But for now, let us celebrate this butterflies-in-the-belly season and commend the wonderful job of all the students and adults who support and embrace the performing arts. Break a leg!
Missing: one tabby cat
Last August we spent four days visiting friends on North Haven in Penobscot Bay. Neighbors, with whom we often swap pet duties, fed our thirteen-year-old tabby cat. Mackerel usually spent most of his time outside in the summer, coming to the back porch to sample processed food and drowse on the porch pillows. Our neighbors reported feeding him the first day, but only sighted him the second. He did not return on the third or fourth days, nor when we drove up the drive after our vacation.
This was not unusual. Mackerel had once vanished in the dead of winter when relatives arrived with a small corgi dog for a five-day sojourn. On the sixth day Mackerel appeared from the pines at the edge of the lawn, mewing as he sidled across the snow, on the lookout for alien dogs. He also survived our move from Curve to Acton Streets, and a number of week-long vacations, during which various neighbors kindly filled his chow bowl.
It is now six months later, and Mackerel still has not returned. When it became clear, near the end of August, that Mackerel might not reappear, we read a number of notices in the Mosquito. Over the course of several issues, five or six families advertised for missing cats. Names were given, descriptions provided, rewards offered.
I doubt the owners ever located their missing pets. One might have been hit by a car. Another might have simply wandered off to greener pastures. Mackerel had originally come to us, we later learned, from a barn just off Curve Street. A clutch of territorial cats had driven him out of their domain. His first owners had dubbed him "Parker" for his elegant manners.
But by far the most common fate of missing cats, no doubt, is a quick death in the jaws of Eastern coyotes. The larger cousins of the western variety, Eastern coyotes began traveling east from the Midwestern plains, via Canada, after World War II. They now inhabit virtually all of New England, including Cape Cod. While they do live in urban areas, they chiefly inhabit the boundaries between field and forest where houses thin out in short, areas like Carlisle. Their diet consists of mice, squirrels, woodchucks, rabbits, and, yes, house cats.
Mackerel arrived the year before the birth of our first daughter, who is now twelve. Mackerel was a very fine cat neat and polite, independent yet affectionate. He has been replaced by two female cats from a local shelter, Whisper and Pepper (who "per" a lot). Last week Whisper, who likes to vanish, did not reappear after a night out. We held our collective breath. It rained hard all day. At suppertime that evening she materialized, a bit bedraggled, from who-knows-where.
It might be better to de-claw the cats and leave them inside, as the flyer from the shelter urged. No doubt we over-empathize with pets. But we would rather have them take their chances (just as we take our chances on the roads), at the mercy of the fates, free and unfettered, even if it means, as Herman Melville wrote of a whaler's lot, "a speechlessly quick chaotic bundling of a [cat] into eternity."
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito