My next series of blog posts will be about my post-Disney career as a director. Immediately after returning home from my summer at Disney in 1992, Rosie and I began teaching an after-school circus arts program at our local Waldorf School in Minneapolis. That same year our first-born daughter Liza began attending the Waldorf kindergarten. To offset the cost of tuition we were given permission to offer our after-school classes that concluded with the first of what became an annual Circus event for the Waldorf community. That first year we had a dozen students. The audience sat in a circle of metal folding chairs, set-up in the back corner of the school’s Social Hall.
My secret mission was to bring laughter to what I thought was a stuffy New Age private school. Rosie is the one who insisted on a Waldorf education for our children. It was a typical Waldorf story of a New Age mom dragging her skeptical husband to visit an odd little school that boasts a three-fold education, where the child’s mind, body, and spirit are all of equal value.
However, when I first entered the school building I was struck by the haunting absence of children’s laughter. The teachers led their students through the hallways with an earnest humorless reverence, like a stoic mother duck, followed by her well ordered line of silent little ducklings. I felt as if I was in a monastery for kids.
What finally sold me on Waldorf was when Rosie and I first visited the kindergarten. The room was draped in billowy clouds of pastel gauze with a tree house built in the middle of the room. The children were sitting in a circle being told a story about gnomes and goblins, as if they were as real as Santa Claus. Magic crackled in the air.
Our circus program quickly became an official part of the school curriculum. Rosie and my annual Waldorf Circus grew into a huge event with standing room only audiences at every performance. During the spring the hallways were always filled with the sound of children’s laughter in anticipation of our upcoming show.
In 1998 the first Harry Potter book was released in America, and I quickly began seeing the thick tombs tucked under the children’s arms. I soon began hearing parents describe our school as, “Hogwarts for your kids.”