Class play, p.1
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       Class Play, p.1

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Class Play

  This book is in honor of

  the birth of

  Laura Caroline Hemphill


















  15 BRAVO!




  “Hello, Barf-head,” Leslie Morris called. She slammed the car door shut. “ ’Bye, Mommy!” she said.

  “ ’Bye, honey,” said Mrs. Morris. “See you this afternoon.”

  Barf-head’s real name was Ricky Torres. “Hello, Stink-head,” Ricky said to Leslie.

  Leslie and Ricky were in Ms. Colman’s second-grade class at Stoneybrook Academy. Ms. Colman was their favorite teacher. She almost never yelled, and she thought up very good surprises for her students. Everyone liked her (but most of the boys would not admit it).

  Ricky followed Leslie along the walk to the entrance to school. He stepped on her heels as often as he could.

  “Cut it out!” yelled Leslie.

  She stopped short and Ricky ran into her.

  “Ow!” he cried.

  “Serves you right!” Leslie ran inside. Then she stopped and walked through the halls to her classroom. The kids at Stoneybrook Academy were not allowed to run in the halls.

  Leslie stepped inside the room. She looked around. Ms. Colman was not there yet. But the door between Ms. Colman’s room and Mr. Berger’s second-grade room next door was open. Leslie knew Mr. Berger was keeping his eye on all the second-graders.

  Only two other kids were in Ms. Colman’s room. Tammy and Terri Barkan were putting things away in their cubbies.

  “Hi, Terri. Hi, Tammy,” said Leslie. Terri and Tammy were twins. Some days, Leslie could not tell them apart. Today was one of those days. The girls were wearing the same outfits, and each had pulled her hair back with blue sparkle barrettes.

  Leslie sat at her desk. She peered inside it. Her desk was boring. So she decided to visit Hootie. Hootie was the class pet. He was a guinea pig. He was friendly and good company.

  Leslie stood next to Hootie’s cage. She held Hootie in her arms. She watched her classmates arrive. Leslie decided to be the Morning Greeter. At least until Jannie Gilbert showed up. Jannie was Leslie’s best friend. Leslie was never bored when Jannie was around.

  “Hi, Omar!” Leslie called when Omar Harris arrived. “Hi, Ian! Hi, Chris!” she said to Ian Johnson and Chris Lamar. (The boys looked surprised to be greeted by Leslie.)

  “Hi, Sara! Hi, Natalie!” cried Leslie.

  Sara Ford and Natalie Springer were trading sticks of chewing gum. “Hi, Leslie,” they replied. And Sara added, “Hi, Hootie.”

  Next to arrive were Karen Brewer, Nancy Dawes, and Hannie Papadakis. They were best friends, just like Leslie and Jannie. They always stuck together.

  “Hi,” Leslie said to them.

  “Hi,” mumbled Nancy and Hannie. Karen did not say a word. She did not like Leslie. Or Jannie. And they did not like Karen. Or Nancy. Or Hannie. But especially not Karen.

  Ricky Torres finally arrived. Bobby Gianelli and Hank Reubens were right behind him. “Hi, Barf-head. Hi, Barf-head. Hi, Barf-head,” Leslie greeted them.

  “Hi, Stink-head,” they replied.

  Soon Audrey Green arrived. Then Ms. Colman arrived. And at long last, Jannie hurried into the room.

  “Where were you?” Leslie asked Jannie. She set Hootie back in his cage. “I was waiting for you.”

  “Sorry,” said Jannie. “My dad’s car would not start.”

  Ms. Colman clapped her hands. “Attention, please, boys and girls,” she called.

  It was time to start the day.


  Leslie ran to her desk. She plopped into her chair. Jannie plopped into hers. Jannie sat in front of Leslie. Leslie had found that she could poke the ends of Jannie’s hair with her pencil, and Ms. Colman never noticed.

  Ms. Colman took attendance. Then she took lunch orders. Then the kids in Ms. Colman’s class listened to the principal. He made an announcement over the P.A. system.

  When he was finished, Ms. Colman said, “Girls and boys, I have an announcement of my own to make.”

  Jannie turned around in her seat. She grinned at Leslie. The kids loved Ms. Colman’s announcements.

  “Soon,” began Ms. Colman, “our class is going to put on a play.”

  “Our whole class?” asked Chris.

  “Our whole class,” replied Ms. Colman. “Every one of you will be in it. And you will all help make the costumes and scenery.”

  “Yes!” cried Karen Brewer from the back of the room.

  “Indoor voice, please,” Ms. Colman reminded her.

  Leslie looked around the room. Most of the kids were smiling. But not all of them. Natalie was frowning. Nancy was staring down at her hands. She looked as if she might cry.

  Then Ian raised his hand. “Do we have to be in it?” he asked.

  Ms. Colman nodded. “Yes. It will be a good experience. But most of all, I think you will have fun.”

  “But what if we do not want to be in the play?” asked Nancy.

  “Then you will have a very small part. You will probably not even have to speak. Other kids will play the bigger parts.”

  “What is the play, Ms. Colman?” asked Leslie. She was bouncing around in her seat. She could not sit still.

  “We are going to put on,” said Ms. Colman, “Alice in Wonderland.”

  “Cool,” said Hannie.

  Leslie was still bouncing around in her seat. “Oh, Ms. Colman! Ms. Colman!” she cried. “My mother used to direct plays. In New York City. And I love to act.”

  “Wonderful,” replied Ms. Colman. “I am glad you love to act because we are going to put on two performances of our play. The first one will be in the afternoon for the students and teachers here at school. The second will be in the evening for our parents and families and friends. We will use the stage in our auditorium.”

  Audrey raised her hand. “How will you decide who gets big parts and who gets little parts?” she wanted to know.

  “Actually, I will not decide that,” said Ms. Colman. “Mrs. Graff will decide.” (Mrs. Graff was one of the fifth-grade teachers.) “She is going to direct the play.”

  “When will we get to try out for the play?” asked Hank.

  “In just a couple of days,” replied Ms. Colman. “And now, class, it is time for reading. Please find your books and let’s begin.”

  On the playground after lunch that day, Leslie and Jannie sat side by side on the swings.

  “I cannot wait to try out for the play,” said Jannie.

  “What part do you want?” Leslie asked her.

  Jannie shrugged. “I don’t know. I just want a good costume.”

  “I just want a big part,” said Leslie. Then she nudged Jannie. “Pssst. There are Karen and Hannie and Nancy.”

  Karen, Nancy, and Hannie walked past the swings then. They did not see Leslie and Jannie. They were whispering. But Leslie heard Karen say, “I hope I get a big part in the play.”


  When recess was over, the kids in Ms. Colman’s class returned to their room. They found Ms. Colman standing by her desk. She was holding up a picture book. The title of the book was Alice in Wonderland.

  “This is not the whole story,” said
Ms. Colman as her students settled down. “Alice’s story was told in two big books. Our play cannot tell that whole, long story. It will tell only some parts of it. Those parts are lots of fun, and full of funny characters. How many of you know the story of Alice in Wonderland?” Seven kids raised their hands. Nine kids did not. “Okay,” Ms. Colman went on. “Today I am going to read you this short story about Alice. The play we put on will be very much like this story.”

  The kids in the class sat still. They listened to Ms. Colman read about the girl named Alice who fell down a rabbit hole and had wonderful adventures in an imaginary land. She changed her size, she went to a mad tea party, and she met lots of strange characters — the White Rabbit whose hole she had fallen down, the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the White Queen, the Red Queen, the Mock Turtle, a Caterpillar, and even more.

  “What do you think?” Ms. Colman asked, when she had finished reading.

  “Cool,” said Hank.

  “Weird,” said Bobby.

  Ms. Colman smiled. Then she said, “Are you ready to see how our play will tell Alice’s story?” On Ms. Colman’s desk were a pile of yellow booklets. She walked up and down the rows of kids. She gave one book to each student.

  Leslie looked at her book. On the cover were the words Alice in Wonderland. She opened the cover. She turned the first page. She saw a list of names. It was headed Characters.

  “Alice,” Leslie read to herself. “The White Rabbit. The Cheshire Cat.”

  “Okay, girls and boys,” Ms. Colman went on. “Let’s read through the play now. Hannie and Ian, would you read the first page aloud? Hannie, you read Alice’s part, and Ian, you read the White Rabbit’s part.”

  Hannie and Ian read. When they finished the first page, Ms. Colman said, “Do you see how the play is different from the story I just read to you? In a play, the story must be told in dialogue. That means it must be told when the characters talk to each other. It is told in conversation.”

  Ms. Colman asked other kids to read other parts. Leslie saw that there were plenty of parts in the play. Enough for everyone to have a role. Some of the parts, such as the Lory, were very small. (The Lory was a funny bird.) Other parts, such as the Cheshire Cat, were much bigger. The part of Alice was the biggest of all. Leslie thought of the pictures of Alice she had seen in Ms. Colman’s books. Alice’s hair was long and blonde. She got to wear a lovely white pinafore over a blue dress. On her feet were shiny black party shoes. Some of the other characters were quite strange-looking. The Cheshire Cat, for instance, was an enormous cat who lazed about in a tree, and often became invisible, except for his huge smile. And Tweedledee and Tweedledum — well, they were especially strange. They were fat little men wearing odd suits. The suits looked alike except that one said DEE on the collar, and the other said DUM.

  Leslie wrinkled her nose. “Ew,” she whispered.

  “Class,” said Ms. Colman, “on Thursday we will go to the auditorium. Those of you who want to try out for the larger roles may do so. The smaller roles will be assigned to the rest of you. Don’t worry, there are plenty of big parts and small parts to go around.”

  Leslie frowned. She wanted only one part, and that was Alice. She looked at Karen Brewer in the back row. She just knew that Karen wanted to be Alice, too.


  On Thursday morning, Leslie felt butterflies in her stomach. As she walked down the hall to Ms. Colman’s room, she leaned over and talked to her stomach.

  “Go away, you butterflies,” she said. “Or calm down. You are making me nervous. And I do not want to be nervous today.”

  “Who are you talking to, Leslie?” asked Chris as he hurried by her.

  “No one,” said Leslie. She felt her face turn red.

  That morning Ms. Colman said to the kids in her class, “Remember, today is the day you will try out for parts in Alice in Wonderland. Mrs. Graff is going to meet us in the auditorium after lunch.”

  After lunch? thought Leslie. That is too bad. I am going to be very nervous by then. I hope I do not barf.

  Leslie did not barf. No one did. As soon as the kids in Ms. Colman’s class returned from recess, Ms. Colman said, “Time to go to the auditorium. Please bring your playbooks with you.”

  The kids followed Ms. Colman down the hall. They sat in the first row of seats in the auditorium. Ms. Colman stood in front of them. “Girls and boys, I want you to meet Mrs. Graff,” she said. “Mrs. Graff will be directing our play. That means she will be in charge of it. I will be her helper. Mrs. Graff has directed many school plays.”

  Mrs. Graff faced Ms. Colman’s students. She was wearing a wool suit. (She looked a bit hot.) Her gray hair was combed straight down, and was neatly parted. Around her neck hung a pair of glasses on a chain. Mrs. Graff did not smile at the kids. She simply held up a playbook.

  “Now. You have all read the play, so you know the story of Alice. How many of you want to try out for a part today?” she asked.

  Leslie looked up and down the row. Ten kids raised their hands.

  “Very well,” said Mrs. Graff. “Smaller roles will be assigned to the rest of you. Okay. Let’s get started. No sense in wasting time. The first role you may read for is the White Rabbit. Any of you who wishes to try out for the White Rabbit, please come to the stage now. Bring your playbooks with you.”

  Leslie glanced at Jannie, who was sitting next to her. “She is mean,” Leslie whispered. “I don’t like her.”

  “Me nei —” Jannie started to say.

  “Girls! Shh!” said Mrs. Graff from the stage. “I expect everyone to pay attention. That is the only way to put on a play.”

  Leslie slumped in her seat. So did Jannie. So did several other kids.

  Mrs. Graff turned to the kids on the stage. “Please open your playbooks to page four,” she said. “Each of you will read the White Rabbit’s lines, and I will read the other lines. Let’s start with you.” Mrs. Graff pointed to Hannie. “What is your name?” she asked.

  “Hannie Papadakis,” Hannie replied.

  “Okay. Begin.”

  “I’m late, I’m late —”

  “Speak up!” said Mrs. Graff loudly. “When you are putting on the play, people must be able to hear you in the very last row.”

  Hannie started over again. When she finished, the other kids read the White Rabbit’s lines with Mrs. Graff. Mrs. Graff called out, “Speak up!” eleven more times.

  When the kids had finished trying out for the White Rabbit, they tried out for the Cheshire Cat, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the Mad Hatter, the Red Queen, and the other big parts. Most of the kids tried out for several parts, just in case. But not Leslie. She tried out only for Alice.


  It was Monday morning. Ms. Colman had taken attendance. She had made some announcements. Now she sat at her desk and looked out at her students. “Class,” she said, “Mrs. Graff has thought very carefully about your tryouts for the play. And she has decided who will play which parts. So get ready to listen.”

  Leslie squirmed in her seat. Her heart was pounding. Jannie turned around to look at her, and they grinned at each other.

  “Cross your fingers,” Jannie whispered.

  Leslie crossed them. She crossed some of her toes, too.

  “I will read your names in alphabetical order,” said Ms. Colman, “and I will tell each of you which part you will play. Okay?” Ms. Colman looked at a list in her hand. “Tammy Barkan,” she said. “The Lory.”

  Tammy groaned. She did not want to be in the play at all.

  “It is a very small role,” Ms. Colman told her. “You do not have to speak. Okay. Let me see. Terri Barken, the Red Queen.”

  “Yes!” cried Terri.

  “Karen Brewer, Alice.”

  Karen jumped out of her seat. “Alice? I am Alice?!” she cried. “Cool! Thank you, Ms. Colman! I cannot wait. I will be a great Alice!”

  Hannie and Nancy clapped their hands for Karen.

/>   Jannie turned around. “No fair,” she whispered to Leslie.

  “Yeah,” replied Leslie. She glared at Karen. Karen thought she was so smart. She had skipped into Ms. Colman’s class from first grade. She was always winning things and getting 100s on her quizzes. And now she was going to play Alice.

  Ms. Colman was reading her list again. At first, Leslie only half listened. Jannie got the part of Tweedledum. Omar was going to be the Cheshire Cat. Chris was going to be the Mad Hatter.

  Then Leslie paid attention. Ms. Colman would call her name next.

  “Leslie Morris,” said Ms. Colman. “Tweedledee.”

  Tweedledee? Leslie could not believe it. She remembered the horrible picture of Tweedledee and Tweedledum in the book Ms. Colman had read. She did not want to play Tweedledee.

  But Jannie was grinning at her again. “Cool! We get to be Tweedledum and Tweedledee,” exclaimed Jannie. “And we are best friends, so it is perfect. We will be the best Tweedledum and Tweedledee ever.”

  “I guess,” said Leslie.

  On the playground that day, Leslie and Jannie sat on the swings. Jannie was smiling to herself.

  “What?” Leslie asked her. “Why are you smiling?”

  “I am thinking about the play,” said Jannie. “About our being Tweedledum and Tweedledee.”

  Leslie made a face

  “What is the matter?” Jannie asked her. She sounded cross.

  “Tweedledee,” Leslie replied.

  “Don’t you want to be Tweedledee?”

  “Not really.”

  “But I am going to be Tweedledum.”

  “I know.” Leslie narrowed her eyes. She looked across the playground. “Stupid old Karen Brewer.” Leslie waited until Karen walked by the swings. Then she called out, “Hey, Karen! The only reason you got to be Alice is because you have long, blonde hair, like she does.”

  Karen did not say anything. She just stuck her tongue out at Leslie.

  “Leslie,” said Jannie, “I thought we would have fun being Tweedledum and Tweedledee.”

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