In March 1967, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, a musical, premiered off-Broadway in New York’s East Village and lasted almost 1,600 performances, closing five years later. Within the year, it opened again, this time on Broadway; then had a revival in the late ’90s, and has been performed all over the world since. Middle schools and high schools across the nation have made it a staple of their stages, due to its simple sets and small cast. But that’s not the only reason.
This play is 46 years old now, and it’s still as vital and telling about the dynamics and learning environments of middle school as it was back then. The character monologues are so revealing and universal. Charlie talks about lunchtime in the cafeteria and how it is the worst time of day for him because he always sits alone, and he is lonely. He yearns to sit next to and speak to the little red-headed girl, but instead puts his lunch bag over his head, so she won’t see him.
His sister, Sally, rails against the establishment for the ‘C’ grade she received on her coat hanger sculpture—this brings up a topic that is frequently discussed, especially among adults: how does one judge what is art? She also espouses, “If I was judged on my effort, then I was judged unfairly, for I tried as hard as I could! Was I judged on what I had learned about this project? If so, then were not you, my teacher, also being judged on your ability to transmit your knowledge to me?”
And Peppermint Patty expresses her confusion about the intersection of how looks affect love when she says, “Chuck, what do you mean, ‘if you happen to see a cute little girl walk by?’ Why does she have to be cute? Can’t someone fall in love with a girl who isn’t cute, and has freckles and a big nose? Explain that, Chuck.”
All of these beloved characters exist in the hearts and minds of your child’s classmates.
We see our children after they have returned home from school, but their thoughts, the way they interact at school—for many of us is just a guess. Are they happy? Do they have friends? Are they being bullied? Are they able to cope with not being chosen? Can they contend with what they have been dealt and make the most of it? Or are they like Lucy, pointing out character flaws and expecting the world to fall into their laps?
These formative years are tough going, not just for children, but for you as well. I wish you luck, and I wish you happiness as you help your children navigate the road to adulthood.