Photograph by Peggy Sirota.
About a year and a half ago—when we were all still riding high on the platinum-certified Justin Bieber of My World 2.0; we didn’t even have the very spirited Christmas album, Under the Mistletoe, yet—I spent a day as a guest educator at an elementary school in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In my role as underqualified outsider, I oversaw a battery of improv activities I had made up the night before (taught being too strong a word, for I taught those wee lads and lasses nothing, save that pretending to be in a school-bus accident is more fun than learning how to write in cursive). At my command, the Midwestern moppets acted out one fantastical situation after another: they walked through imaginary mansions in a game called “Real Estate Agent,” took turns delivering absurd one-word-at-a-time answers as a guest on my daytime talk show, “Three-Headed Expert.” When the time came for a relatively simple activity that required them to act out situations as I named them (“You’re at the grocery store!” “You’re coming home from school!”), I provided a couple of mundane prompts, and then, unable to control myself any longer, played my ace.
“You’re at a Justin Bieber concert!”
Some of the girls threw themselves on the ground in a shrieking rapture; others ran around the classroom in hysterics, shouting “Justin! I love you, Justin!” One young lady, offended by the suggestion that she ought to join this breathless frenzy, stood unmoving and angry, her arms hanging at her sides. “I hate Justin Bieber!” she whined. Most of the boys were with her, groaning, pretending to vomit, plugging their ears. Of all the scenarios I guided them through that day, the imaginary Justin Bieber concert was the hardest to break up. It took me several minutes to regain their attention.