Mr Kidds Twelfth Night

twelfth night
Courtesy – Karen Ward personal archives

Riverside High, the early 1980s – I’m dropping my books, and about to head into Mr Kidd’s class.

Mr Kidd is notoriously scary for those who don’t have him as a teacher.

He is seen as the hardest task master in the whole school.  He doesn’t give high marks easily.  He comes across as grumpy.

He is tubby with a big beard and none of us like to bump into him in the hallways.  He bounds along in a way that reminds one of a big ferocious bear.

Together with another teacher, Mr Sparks, he invites our class to be in the play, Twelfth Night.  To my surprise, because I’ve deliberately dropped drama which was compulsory last year, due to overwhelming shyness, I am cast, on the basis of our in class reading aloud activities, in a lead role.

The rehearsals for that play take up many lunch hours and after school.  New friendships are fostered, as members of other grades take up roles both on stage and off to support us.

Some of the boys take every opportunity to diligently practice sword fights with cardboard swords.  Two of our classmates are the most unlikely set of twins you’d ever think of, he is half her height and blond, she is dark haired and has a totally different face, but they are the best actors for those roles, so twins they are.

We see another side of Mr Kidd as he nervously tries to memorise his lines, something many of us are finding terrifying as we head to opening night.   He is reading his lines again and again trying to make them stick.

We have a prompt hidden in something that melds into the stage to help us out on the night.

Some of the drama teachers are sure we were not going to pull the production off, and even try to stage a coup to have the whole production called off, thinking we will put the school into disrepute, with a shocking performance.

Thankfully this doesn’t happen and for two nights we perform to packed audiences of family, friends and community.

I am able to wear makeup for the first time (to look better for the stage).   I have a hooped dress and feel truly beautiful as my character.   Mr Sparks and Mr Kidd need the prompt a few more times than the students.

Prior to opening night, as usual, I am teased heaps about my frizzy hair, and some of the boys call me Animal based on the Muppet’s character who plays the drums.  Partly because of my hair, and also ironically due to my quiet nature, which is the opposite of Animal’s.

Opening night, one of the boys who is like a brother to me (so don’t read anything romantic in it) comes up and says how stunning I looked and how well I’ve done in the part.  I turn a deep purple colour.

Every young girl wants to be thought of as beautiful and talented and Mr Kidd indirectly gave me an opportunity to have that experience at a time when I needed more self- esteem after years of secretly feeling ugly.

I think many students remember Mr Kidd with fondness because of his passion and creativity in the subject he taught.   

I will always remember him because in my youth he believed the most I was going to grow up to be a writer and did everything to make me think that too.

Inspired by the Who Shaped Me project for ABC Open this month’s  Pearlz Dreaming blog theme will be about the people who inspire me and there are lots of them!

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