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8 November 2007

Relearning the Basics

Steven DiBlasi and Ellie Mellen are cast members in the JSU production of ‘All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.’ Some performances already are sold out, so reservations are mandatory. Photo: Special to The Anniston Star

By Stephanie Marie Lynn
Special to the Star

Reprinted here in its entirety.

Remember kindergarten? You know, the good old days of naps, fingerpainting, milk and cookies and learning the basics?

Well, if not, don’t worry, because Jacksonville State University’s Drama Department is happy to refresh your memory with its production of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, a musical adapted from the book by Robert Fulghum.

The book and the play are actually made up of many different stories, including “Hide and Seek,” “MOTB” and “Tomb Without a View.” Each story focuses on a rule that was taught to us early on, but that we sometimes forget (or ignore) as we get older.

The book and the play both begin by pointing out that we learned simple rules in kindergarten for how to live. Some include: Share everything, play fair, clean up your own mess, don’t take things that aren’t yours, say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody, wash your hands before you eat, flush. They seem simple enough.

As we become older, though, many become more complicated, the gray areas widen and the rules seem harder to obey. For instance, consider “share everything.” Someone tried applying that to music not too long ago. The result was Napster. The record industry and the government quickly told us that sharing everything in music over the Internet wasn’t legal.

Still, that doesn’t mean the rules that applied in kindergarten can’t have meaning in our adult lives. To achieve that sense of we’re-all-in-this-together, actors in All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten play several roles, sometimes using their own names. Justin Ridgeway, a senior at JSU, says using their own names comes from “the idea that it could be anybody. It could be any person anywhere doing this role, so that way it relates to everybody.”

Sophomore Robert Copeland says everyone is an actor is some form or fashion.

“Who you are, your personality, your character ... you’re acting,” he says. “You’re putting on a show for people to know who you are. You are putting on a show for everybody.”

Director Susan McCain, who teaches acting at JSU, stresses the “struggle” of the play’s characters, the obstacles they encounter. Many of the actors and crew say they’ve encountered their own struggles while rehearsing the play.

Laura Lundy, a sophomore majoring in biology, says she struggles with a full-body jump she must accomplish during the play.

Back in kindergarten, her teacher emphasized “share everything,” but Lundy found her own philosophy as she grew up.

“The rule for my life now is to do your best and try your hardest at everything you do,” she says.

For Shaniqua “Shai” Bailey, a sophomore and mother of three, the struggle is synchronizing the play’s words and actions — not to mention synchronizing the fact that she’s double majoring in psychology and drama.

Her kindergarten lesson was “be kind,” something she’s experienced in her own life.

“Down here, we’re very hospitable to everybody. If you see somebody coming, you hold the door open for them,” says Bailey, who grew up in New York. “Up north, (she slaps her hands together), I got hit in the nose. Everybody’s on the go up there or they just really don’t care because that’s not how they were raised. So I got hit in the nose (with a door). But he wound up being the guy that needed a ride home. He was walking home in the rain and guess who picked him up? So be kind to everybody because you never know when you’re going to need somebody.”

Eleanor “Ellie” Mellen, a junior who attended kindergarten in Castroville, Texas, says she is dealing with combining the play’s deaths with her own thought processes for the “Tomb Without a View” scene.

But her kindergarten lesson, which she still adheress to, is to respect other people, something she’s seen lacking at JSU.

“You see that every day,” she says. “In all of the classes, so many people don’t have respect for their teachers, when we could just treat each other better and treat each other with respect. Go to class and pretend like it was either you up there or one of your parents.”

Ridgeway struggles with finding the time to do the play and graduate at the same time. Right now, along with the play rehearsals, he is working on two 20-page papers.

But he also recalls what his kindergarten teacher told him: “Don’t hit people,” he says with a laugh. “That’s what I got paddlings the most for.”

All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten

What: JSU production.
When: 7 p.m. Tonight-Saturday & Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 15-17; 2 p.m. Sunday & Sunday, Nov. 18.
Where: JSU Ernest Stone Performing Arts Center, Second Stage Theatre, Room 338.
How much: $9 adults, $7 senior citizens & JSU personnel, $5 students and military; must be purchased in advance, no sales at door; some shows already sold out.
Contact: 782-5648.

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