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Those who Help us Most to Grow

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She knocks lightly on the door but when no one answers she guesses they must be onstage or in the basement. Fizz pushes the door open and walks inside anyway. She spins around, looking at it. Some of the posters have changed, and a few of the things on the desk, but otherwise it's the same Greenroom.

There's a noise behind her. Fizz turns too quickly and knocks into the table, sending crayons flying. She crouches to get them and looks up, still flushing. “Hola, Miss Julie.”

Miss Julie is maybe a little frailer looking, and Fizz came here expecting that she might need to remind her teacher who Fizz is. Fizz isn't like Hank and Spike, who are currently writing a show together online just like they promised when they were kids. (It's not exactly the same as Rodgers and Hammerstein but Fizz thinks it's close enough.) She's hasn't had final showcases to invite Miss Julie to watch like Peri did. Miss Julie might have forgotten all about her. But Miss Julie smiles warmly and Fizz feels immediately better. “Hola, Fizz darling. It's so lovely to see you.”

“I didn't want to interrupt you,” Fizz says, instead of what she meant.

Miss Julie crosses the room to the kettle. “I was just making some tea. Would you like a cup?”

“Yes please.”

Miss Julie waits until Fizz is sitting down, and Miss Julie is facing away, looking at the kettle. She asks, “Is everything all right? Peri told me you were in California. Have you seen Riley at all?”

“Yes. Riley’s making something to make batteries.”

“That does sound like Riley. The last time they were here, they wanted to run the whole lighting rig off a new generator they built.”

“Did it work?”

Miss Julie laughs. “For a little while. Then there were some popping noises and some smoke. But apparently it provided excellent new test data.”

“It's okay to make mistakes,” Fizz says. “They give us something to learn from, don't they?” She doesn't quite know why there's a quaver in her voice.

Miss Julie walks back with a tray: a teapot, two cups, milk and sugar, and a plate of biscuits. She sets it down carefully and begins to pour. Miss Julie says, “they do. Although I think it's fine to make mistakes even if it doesn't lead to scientific progress. Mistakes mean we're trying.”

The words pour out of Fizz. “I think I want to be a teacher. But I was never very good in school, and college was hard, and I- what if I get it wrong? I'm helping with a group of kids and I had an idea but I don't want to make it worse and then all of a sudden I was thinking ‘what would Miss Julie do?’ and I thought maybe I could come and ask? If you're not too busy?”

Fizz remembers wanting to be something new every week. This idea crept up on her slowly but now it just seems right. Fizz has made so many mistakes along the way, she should be able to fix anything. She should be able to show these kids how to start over and over and keep going.

Miss Julie takes a breath. “Let's try from the beginning. Of course you can be a teacher, darling. A lot of people who are very good at helping other people to learn found school a little difficult. But what's the idea you're worried about?”

Fizz hopes Miss Julie will understand. “The kids I'm working with weren't born here. Like my grandparents. And some of them left in a hurry, or they don't always speak English really well, and I thought maybe…”

“What is it?”

“I got to be a Mexican princess.”

Miss Julie blinks at her and maybe Fizz needs to explain.

“In our first show?” Fizz asks. “I was Princess-”

“Apple, I remember, darling. And you all wrote the story. I love all Greenroom productions but I do have to admit,” she gives Fizz a conspiratorial smile, “your show was one of my very favourites.”

“Mine too,” Fizz says. “And it was… I got to be a Princess, and name all the characters and write songs and I thought… maybe it would help them to make a story.”

“I think that's a wonderful idea, Fizz.”

“Can you help me? Just to know how to help them make it.” She doesn't know how to begin.

It's the first time Miss Julie looks uncertain. “Darling, teaching teachers is a very special skill and I haven't ever-”

There's a sound from behind them. “Of course you have, Julie.” Peri is standing in the open door to the wings. “Hi Fizz! It is still Fizz, you're not using-?”

“Still Fizz.” Fizz shrugs and laughs. “I tried Penelope a few times, but it's not really… it's just Fizz.”

“I always liked Fizz.” Peri perches lightly on the arm of the couch and wraps her arm around Fizz’s shoulder. “Hi.”

“Hi, Peri. I thought you were in a show right now?” Fizz hasn't known Peri not to be in or rehearsing for a show since high school. Peri didn't ever seem to be as full of energy as Fizz always was, but she was always focused on something.

“I am taking a short break,” Peri says, that same certainty that Fizz always thought miraculous, steel determination underneath it. “I am evaluating. And since Gus is off at GR2-”

“The Peters Centre in Washington,” Miss Julie fills in. “We got the funding to start a workshop programme there - finally - and Gus is helping them launch.”

“And Julie said I could come and help out here for a little while. I'm an Assistant Director now.” Peri nudges Fizz’s side.

“Wow.” Fizz grabs Peri’s hand. “That's so exciting! Do you like directing?”

Peri thinks about that. “It's harder for me than acting? But I think it makes me a better actor. You see the whole play better, and how all of it fits together. Does that make sense?”

“I think so,” Fizz says. “You would probably be really good with my group, I don't know what to do next at all.”

“You'll figure it out,” Peri says. “And Julie's going to help, aren't you?” They both look at Miss Julie.

“My dears,” she says, “I want to help very much, I'm just not sure what to offer.”

“You taught me to teach,” Peri says. “And Gus. It'll be harder work for Fizz because she can't take you back with her to San Diego, but-”

“Are you sure you don't want to come to San Diego?” Fizz checks. “The weather's really good and there are theatres right in the park.”

Peri mutters something about Shakespeare in Central Park but she keeps it under her breath and anyway Miss Julie only smiles very kindly.

Miss Julie says, “I'm afraid I can't travel away from my Greenroom right now, Fizz. But I think Peri’s right. You want to give these children the arts, don't you?”

Fizz supposes that's it. “Yes. I want them to tell stories, but I'm not sure they all know how.”

“We can all tell stories,” Peri says. “It's just that sometimes we're scared, or we don't think people will listen, or they won't understand. Or maybe we don't know the best way to tell the story, and we think it needs to be perfect the first time. So that's what you need to do.”

“What?” Fizz asks.

“Let them know it's okay,” Peri says. “Let them know you're going to listen. You’ve always been great at that.”

“I need to make them feel safe,” Fizz says, “even when the stories are scary.” She wasn't always good at that but she's got better.

“Exactly,” Miss Julie says. “And you need to help them listen to each other. That's just as important.”

“Devising,” Peri says suddenly.

“Yes,” Miss Julie agrees. “Exactly that. Not a class I usually teach here, but it does sound rather like what Fizz wants to achieve.”

Peri claps her hands together. “And like our first show here too, we just didn't know that's what we were doing. And maybe we argued a little more than you're supposed to but the point is: we can totally help Fizz create a new workshop!”

“And you think then I can do it?” Fizz asks.

Miss Julie turns Fizz’s shoulder so they're looking at each other. “Fizz, darling, tell me. When you first came up with this idea, what were you thinking?”

“Um. That theatre was really good for me, when I needed it, when I was feeling… when I was feeling too many things, sometimes, and theatre made it okay to let all of that just- out. I thought maybe it would help them too.”

“And the other thing you thought, it seems, is that someone needed to go out and get that help for them.” Miss Julie smiles. “And you decided to do that yourself.”

“Only because I was there,” Fizz says. “I was mostly thinking about what you would do.”

Peri says, “Exactly. And what did you think Julie would do?”

Fizz considers this. “Miss Julie always… always asked us what we thought we should do, and how we felt.”

Miss Julie reaches for a pen and paper. “Well, that seems as good a starting place as any. Let's see if we can't work this out together.”