Every winter the parents and faculty/staff of Washington Elementary School, Westfield's smallest, put on their iconic "Washington School Show". Starting as a talent show in 1948 for the old Grant School, the production has grown in scope, size and complexity--and popularity--so much so that it is now performed at the Roosevelt Intermediary School auditorium over a period of two days, three shows. This year's production, "Pandora's Box" carries on the tradition.
I hope you all take the time to come out and watch the performance. It is written, produced, directed, choreographed and performed entirely by Washington School parents. It is, in fact, a special event that I would like to think belongs to the entire town of Westfield and not just our elementary school family.
I grew up in semi-rural Illinois about fifty miles northwest of Chicago. Although suburban sprawl has metastasized over my area since, when I was young our neighbors were horses as well as people, the street gravel and the properties large, spread out and mouth-wateringly inexpensive. Woodlots and high rail fences bordered our yards and we would have to pedal our bikes to nearby lakes to swim and fish. The town of Barrington—a town not unlike Westfield actually in its commuter-stop old time charm—was miles away. It wasn’t a quick walk. Cars were required for most daily activities. Other than a country club and pool, the parents didn't socialize very much with one another. Midwesterners tend to keep to themselves more than they do here. (Probably because we spend half of our lives hunkered down inside fending off the artic cold!)
When I moved here, my image of New Jersey was grossly unfair. In my defense it was formed by a media which presented it to the rest of us as a tacky haven for Mafiosos, chemical plants, big hair, spandex, boardwalks on crowded beaches reeking of vinegar fries and oil, and lots of tank-tops. My wife, a Brooklyn native whose predispositions to this state were roughly the same, and I discovered Westfield by sheer happenstance sixteen years ago. She was pregnant with our first baby and we wanted a place more family-friendly than swinging Hoboken. It was one of the best decisions we ever made for we had no idea how truly special this town is. Now we know.
And one aspect we especially love is the camaraderie that the Washington School Show has to offer. It creates a friendly social atmosphere that spills over into many other events and parties throughout the year. This is a fun group, my friends. I can truly say without a shred of doubt that some of the kindest, friendliest and most intelligent and interesting people I have ever had the pleasure to know have been introduced to me through the School Show. I am especially fortunate to play with excellent musicians in the band (my small contribution) and true friendships have been born from the interaction. In an environment of so many parents that one would think should create a Tower of Babel of personality clashes and egos, on the contrary rarely have I been involved in such an ad hoc large group project in which people of all walks of life work together so smoothly and respectfully. It is a marvel of sociology really. If this sounds a touch maudlin, I assure you it is not. I am no squishy sentimental fool (despite my German heritage which as we know is “all zmiles und zunshine” – The Simpsons). It’s just the way it is.
But I would like to think that the Washington School Show belongs to all Westfielders and not just our particularly plucky little district. For someone like myself who came from less socially active environs, I see it as a bright jewel in a town whose crown positively glitters with what all of its 30,000 residents living together happily in 6.7 square miles of community have to offer. Just as we all try to support local shop-keepers, even if they may be a percent more expensive on occasion, dine in our town, or support local charities and events, etc. I hope that others not in the school see our show as not just a parochial fundraiser, but an expression of our town’s Westfieldness. Those of us who live here know what that means.
So I hope either tonight, tomorrow during the matinee or tomorrow evening during the final performance, I will on occasion peek up from the orchestra pit, scan the crowd, and NOT recognize every face. Washington parents offer the show to the entire town. It really is a lot of fun and even an educational experience for the kids. Plus, what better way to convince children of the value of the performing arts than watching moms and dads practice what we preach? The Washington School Show is simply a wonderful way for all of us from all school districts to support and get to know each other even better. In the end, we are all in this extraordinary town together.
So please come out and join us, friends. We promise it will be worth your while.
Friday: February 7, 8:00pm; Saturday February 8, 1:30pm and 7:00pm
Roosevelt Intermediary School, 301 Clark Street, Westfield