The Neighborhood Gang
By: Susannah Wellford Shakow
When I was a girl, there were only a few kids my age on the block. By the time my sister was born six years later, there had been a baby boom, and the neighborhood was filled with kids. Liz spent her childhood in the company of a gang ranging in ages from 4-14. They did everything together, including, most memorably, putting on neighborhood plays. First they did “Peter Pan”, then “Annie”, then “The Sound of Music.” The culmination was “The Wizard of Oz,” complete with a yellow brick road that wound its way through the audience. These weren’t little affairs; they were big productions with hand-sewn costumes, painted backdrops, and choreographed musical numbers. They usually took place in my parent’s garage, with the neighborhood seated in folding chairs in our long driveway. When it was time for a scene change, they simply rolled down the garage door.
My sister, Lizzy Well, was the stage manager, and her best friend, Lizzy Mac, was the director. Together they corralled all 20 or so of their acting pool into memorizing lines, getting their mothers to sew costumes, and coming to regular rehearsals.
The sad thing is I can’t imagine this kid-directed adventure happening today. Kids in our neighborhood all have so much going on – piano lessons, soccer, tennis, ballet, after school tutoring – that they don’t have to time to sit around planning creative ways to have fun. Too bad. I have talked to some of the kids who did the plays (they are now in their late 30’s!) and they say it was one of the best parts of their childhood.
Are our kids too busy to play?