My students were in a play contest this week. It was… interesting. During my time in Asia, I have judged more than 10 of these fascinating cultural experiences but never have I had to prepare students for a play contest. We weren’t allowed any costumes or props, which added to the challenge.
One of my favourite plays was a Korean version of Cinderella. Other than having Korean names, the story progressed along familiar lines but every now and again, with no apparent rhyme or reason, a child dressed as a mango tree would run across the stage yelling “I am so deee-ricious!” and throw mangoes at people. I gave it full marks for sheer entertainment value.
Our play was called The Ant and the Grasshopper. I assumed it would have at least a little resemblance to Aesop’s fable. It did not.
The play opened in a classroom where the teacher (a human) is inexplicably teaching a class of insects how to sing.
When it comes time for the grasshopper’s turn, he sings loudly but very badly. His classmates make fun of him but his teacher tells him that with practice, one day he will be a great singer. ( I believe I can fly by R. Kelly started playing in the background.)
The next scene I assumed happened years later although it was unclear. The Grasshopper, is singing badly on a street corner. He is accompanied by a beggar. (Another human. Either the insects were really big or the humans were really small. I didn’t get it.)
An angry shopkeeper runs up and screams: “Oh my God! Get out of here, crazy people!” Then she throws salt at them.
The beggar leaps to her feet and says: “Thank you! I love salt!”
(Why would you throw salt at a beggar??)
The Ant comes in just as the Grasshopper was suffering an identity crisis. “I’m really want to be a singer. But is very hard.”
Ant comes to the rescue with a bracing speech.
(The student playing Ant is a lovely little girl with excellent English but try as I might, I could not get her to say STAR. She always said STURR. And she couldn’t seem to hear the difference between the two. Very odd.)
The last scene was at a concert. Grasshopper had somehow become famous. He thanked everyone for making his dream come true and then burst into I was born to love you, by Queen.
The play was a masterpiece of bizarreness. When we started, I considered re-writing the script so that it made sense but eventually decided not to – the students liked it, my co-T liked it, and it was charming in its weirdness. We had a blast preparing for the contest.
Our school didn’t win but I don’t think anyone minded.