- Tim Hartman
The Miracle Fruit.
I found this other picture from my show at Elizabeth Forward Middle School on my phone. There is a teacher in a khaki shirt with his hand up in the far right corner. This is his story.
I tell a story that is heavy in the participation department. It's called 'Makarias the Elder'. Makarias is an elderly monk, who is given a gift, and in his generosity, he passes the gift on to someone whom he believes could use the gift more than himself. The gift is passed on from person to person until it is returned to Makarias. A lovely tale about how generosity will often seed to future generosity. It's from a collection of stories of 2nd century monks called, 'The Desert Fathers'. The thing that makes the story funny is, I choose people from the audience to portray each character. Every character has a silly, alliterative name that corresponds with some ridiculous action...like 'Igor the Itchy', 'Mumford the over-muscled' or 'Patricia the Pantheist' (Okay, maybe not that last one.)...then, the chosen audience member has to act it out. It can be funny. It almost always is funny. (But sometimes an over-eager audience member, who has always believed they would make a great contestant on 'Who's Line is it Anyway' can over-achieve the funny out of it, but even THAT can be very funny.)
As I said on a past blog I have been coming to this school for 20 years. The teachers at this school have heard these stories a thousands of times before. (I do try to mix things up a bit every time I tell a story, but that only goes so far.) I have been at this school so many times, I've begun to forget which teachers I have used already for different characters in 'Makarias the Elder'.
The last character I introduce is 'Milo the Monkey-Boy'. The male teacher I choose has to do his best monkey impression, which may include jumping up and down, screeching, beating his chest, grooming the teacher standing next to him, and if the guy is very imaginative, I have often had a 'Milo' who flings his own poo. Oh yes! That happens! And I would never presume to put a damper on his muse!
There was a teacher whom I have often noticed sitting in the back at Elizabeth Forward. He always laughs....ALWAYS! Which means two things: 1. I like him. AND 2. I have chosen him in the past and will continue choosing him in the future. What I didn't know, at the time, was that I hadn't picked him in many years. (I don't have any idea why.) But THIS was going to be his year again! It was time to choose Milo, and as I walked down the aisle towards that teacher, the look on his face was the same look you get from the kid whom no one ever chooses for a pick-up games of Basketball. 'You!', I proclaimed, and he leapt from his seat screaming 'YES!" The children echoed his enthusiasm with a roar of approval and applause. When we made it to the stage, I told him what character he would be playing and gave him an idea of what 'monkey things' he could do. I then began telling the story from the beginning. Giving each 'actor' an opportunity to portray the particular named quirk. I finally came to Milo, and announced him with a 'Soccer Announcer' bellow! "And the gift was given to MILO THE MONKEY-BOY!!!!!" The teacher jumped into the air, screeching and yelping! Waving his arms, hunched over, and pulling his top lip, low towards his chin! 'Well done.', I thought...and then it happened. He reached around and behind, to under the long tails of his buttoned down shirt and pulled, from out of his back pocket...a banana. As he peeled and ate it as any good monkey would do, the children screamed with laughter. I screamed with laughter. The other teachers screamed with laughter.
He later told me he had last played Milo 15 years before, and for every year since, he had placed a banana in his back pocket before that year's performance, hoping I would choose him again...every year...for 15 years. That, my friends, is patience. That's the kind of fun that can happen when I have a long term relationship with an audience. The audience is excited to be a part of it all, and some even come prepared. I love my job.