The Playground

So there’s this playground. I can see it. It’s new to me but it is familiar. There’s a group of kids waiting to play there but they aren’t. They’ve played a lot of games before but never together. So I bring them a game. I teach them to play it. We are all having fun playing this game together. The game changes every once in a while. New toys get added to the playground every once in a while.

That pretty much wraps up how rehearsals began and where they are now. “Sideways Stories from Wayside School” is the game and the playground is the Know Theatre.

I love these stories. There is one in particular that I want to focus on. The story is of Paul pulling Leslie’s pigtails. In John Olive’s adaptation this story gets added to Myron’s character. This is the story that made me fall in love with the book “Wayside” and seeing that it made it into the adaptation made me happier than a happy thing that is happy. This story is the kind of thing that I love working with on stage. You have a lovable character who is going to do something awful. He knows it is awful but he HAS to do it. He NEEDS to pull her pigtails, it is not a want, it is a need. Why do I love this story? I don’t know. I think I see a lot of myself in that story. It’s human and it is simple. There is no subtext, there is no plot twist, it is a simple story told in an interesting way.

For me the joy of this show is in its sense of play. We stop rehearsals because we get the giggles. It’s not just giggling it is giggling like you used to at sleepovers. You know when all is quiet and everyone is trying their best to go to bed because you know you are supposed to and then it happens, one giggle turns into an hour later with tears running down your face and no one can pinpoint why that was so funny.

I love comedy. I love the challenge of it. I love how comedy connects us. I love finding moments that are funny because of how seriously we take the situation and how high the stakes are. Doing a scene about pulling pigtails is funny. Doing that scene the same way you would perform for a “serious” show is hilarious. Why do some actors change their style when they are performing in a comedy? I think it is because they are taught that drama is hard work and comedy is easy. I think that kind of thinking is a real shame. Another thing I love about comedy is how through this laughter you can find moments of true beauty.

Jason Ballweber, Director – Sideways Stories from Wayside School


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