Copyright 2001 Lizanne Wilson, All rights reserved.*Published in FOLLOWSPOT, September, 2001. The Journal of the Illinois Theatre Association.
*Radio Essay on “MOMBO” distributed through Pacifica Radio Network, 2001.“
We have a scene to do, Ms. Wilson,” says Sara,
“Can we do it at the end of class?”
“Sure,” I reply without thinking, “What is it about?”
“What happened last week in New York.”
“Oh?” I say, trying to think of how to respond.
I glanced at Diane, my collaborator and classroom teacher for this fifth grade class, as if to say,
“Now what? What if it’s frightening or inappropriate or something else that takes us by surprise?
Will we know what to say to them after we see it?” Diane and I look to each other and I say,
“Of course we can look at it. We’ll make Max our timekeeper so we are sure to have 8
minutes at the end of class.”
I walk to the front of the room to begin our warm-up, and I remind myself once again to take my
own advice and trust the children.
It’s the last 8 minutes of class on a Wednesday afternoon in September, eight days after the
tragedy that killed thousands of people in New York, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania.
Sarah, Linda, Ann and Rhea are the players
“Here is a scene we made up about the bombings last week. It shows how we feel.”
Sarah and Linda are the buildings, arms stretched up in a peaked shape imitating the
shape of the World Trade Center towers. Rhea, playing the first airplane, crashes into
the building by throwing her arms towards Sara who is the first tower to be hit. Rhea
then stands behind Sarah’s crumbling tower. Ann glides serenely in and destroys the
second tower portrayed by Linda.
Next, Rhea and Ann appear tilting out from behind the collapsing towers with an
impassioned voiceless cry of “Help!” The “buildings” come to rest on the ground in slow
motion and Sarah and Linda are gently transformed into survivors, Ann and Rhea are
now their rescuers.
“Are you okay?” ask Ann and Rhea from behind the newly transformed girls as they
each extend a helping hand to a survivor “Yes,” replies each girl, I believe I will be all
right.” The girls hold their places while Sara brings in a burnished 6 inch, tall brass
replica of the Statue of Liberty, she hands the statue to Linda. Holding the symbolic
figure in her hands, Linda shares her feelings with the class: “I was so sorry all of those
people died in the bombings last week. It makes me feel sad to think about it, so we made
this scene.” Each girl takes her turn with the small statue, sharing her thoughts, her
sorrow, and her hope.
The room is quiet. I remember why I teach drama to children.