[Note: This review was written by KFDC Contributor Emily Moise, a local writer and mom of two young children. She always has excellent recommendations for kids’ activities around the DC area. See some of them here, here, and here.]
It was a timely treat taking my kindergartner to the Kennedy Center to see The Day You Begin, a musical based on the bestselling children’s book by author Jacqueline Woodson. The plot: the first day at a new school with diverse new people; the setting: a familiar, yet more vividly modern elementary school classroom. The message? The day you truly “begin” is when you discover what makes you unique, but also the same as people who may seem so different.
The show, an age-appropriate 55 minutes in length, is immediately engaging and interactive. The teacher, Ms. Veve, asks the audience self-identifying questions: “Who wants to be a writer? Who wants to be a teacher? A basketball star?” It’s such a distinguishing topic of conversation for a kid. One student, Rigoberto, clearly wants to be a soccer star, running passionately down the aisle with his cardboard soccer ball and speaking his native Spanish.
The class is comprised of four students who are unlikely friends, but by the end, meant to be. For much of America, the diversity depicted in the book and musical is the new norm and something your child may already be navigating in school. Multi-cultural, multi-lingual, disabled, and more; very few are exactly alike. How fortunate that our kids are figuring out what makes them special yet what connects them at such young ages.
My daughter’s favorite part of the show is the lengthy lunch scene. Some days, there’s nothing more interesting to a kid than what everyone had (or bought) for lunch. Food is a big deal in a little kid’s world. The plot thickens when one student, Min, opens a canister of kimchi for lunch. It could not be more jarring to the others but Min stands proud. The kids figure out how to be kindly curious about what’s different, and also agree on what favorite fruit they share – a “beginning” moment to their friendship.
Ms. Veve leaves us with the following lesson: “go tell your stories.” Finding your place in the world and with others can begin with you opening up and being proud of what makes you you. Because “every new friend has something a little like you – and something else so fabulously not quite like you at all.” During the car ride home, my daughter just kept begging me for kimchi for dinner…
The Day You Begin
Where: Kennedy Center | Foggy Bottom, DC
When: Through December 18