Noah enjoyed a rather pedestrian career in the renowned Washington Middle School Senior Band somewhere in the middle of the clarinets. At the American Nicaraguan School, he is one of the best players, in the high school band even though he is still in Junior High. He also plays occasionally with the high school ensemble. He takes lessons with one of the best clarinet players in the country, but he almost never practices. It is drive like this that got him selected to play with the other members of the ensemble in the ANS high school musical – Putnam County Spelling Bee.
Practice was sporadic. Sometimes it would be scheduled after school and then not happen. Sometimes we told Noah it was just too difficult to arrange a ride and they would have to practice without him. He really wished he had not agreed to do it. At some point, some professional musicians were hired to fill in the gaps. There was an all day dress rehearsal the day before the opening of the play. We asked Noah how it went. It was a very Nicaraguan experience he said. First there was no power then when there was power, Fernanda’s amp cord wasn’t working because it had been taped together and we had to send someone over to her house to get another one.
The first night of the show, we all drove to Managua to the theatre of the Alliance Francais. Jonathan went down a one way street the wrong way on the advice of some drunks hanging out on the corner and put a huge dent in the car when he scraped the official Alliance Francais truck making an emergency u turn to avoid oncoming cars. As at all school events, I was struck by the whiteness of everyone in the room compared to any other room full of Nicaraguans I had ever encountered. I still feel terribly out of my league with the Managuan elite.
The play started with a sort of history of Broadway with various members of the drama club singing excerpts of songs from Rent, Wicked, West Side Story, Grease etc. I’m not sure why. Perhaps everyone needed a turn. Perhaps it is due to the fact that the length of a regular Broadway show just isn’t quite long enough for Nicaraguan attention spans.
Finally the play started. Noah played brilliantly. The acting was astonishingly good. It was in fact, the Central American Premier of the play. It was in English. The accents were perfect and the kids maintained all of the little tics and speech idiosyncrasies of their characters. It was several degrees of separation. Nicaraguan kids portraying caricatures of US social types. The family next to me asked what a Spelling Bee was. It is hard to explain to someone who never had participate in one in third grade. Not a single person laughed at the bar mitzvah jokes.
We got home late and the kids still had to get up at 5 for school the next day. There was another performance on Thursday night. The closing night was cancelled at the last minute because May Day celebrations were causing disturbances by the theatre with their mortars and fireworks. It was deemed unsafe to go on with the play. Thank goodness we got the message before Noah got all the way back into Managua in the midst of the rabblerousing. Only because Fernanda thought to call Jules on his cell phone.