Back From One-year Ban, Polisar Enthralls Students

Whimsical Songs, Tales Delight Youngsters

October 06, 1991|By Dianne Williams Hayes | Dianne Williams Hayes,Staff writer

Lunch ended quickly, just in time to transform the cafeteria into anauditorium and playground for the fanciful world of a child's imagination.

And folk singer Barry Louis Polisar was the ringleader at Quarterfield Elementary, conjuring up dinosaurs working as orthodontists, mishaps with siblings and sage advice such as "Don't Stick Your Finger Up Your Nose" -- all lessons in satire.

For 35 minutes, 9-year-old Blaine Tewell's eyes were focused on the funny man with the beard and guitar. He fidgeted to the whimsical tunes played by Polisar, who has never forgotten what it's like to bea little person in a big world.

"He was good," Blaine said.

Polisar's two performances -- his first in the county after being banned for a year by a school review committee -- were a hit with studentsFriday.

The committee had deemed his folk songs, like "I'm a 3-Toed, Triple-Eyed, Double-Jointed Dinosaur," inappropriate.

"It feltgreat," Polisar said. "It's like (being banned) never happened. It did feel good to be back in the county."

Before each song, the music stopped and the singer shared childhood experiences that influencedhis writing.

"When I was growing up, I used to get blamed for things I didn't do," he told wide-eyed students "Things I didn't m-e-a-nto do."

Hands automatically covered guilty mouths and giggles could be heard throughout the room as he began a song about his mishaps.

"I didn't mean to break the window

"Or sit down on the cake

"I didn't mean to hit my sister

"Knock her down or tie her up."

Seated on the gym floor along with students in grades three throughfive, Blaine giggled, sang along and was among the students who quizzed the performer, who was hired by the school's Parent-Teacher Association. Polisar last performed at the school five years ago.

"Where can we find your books?" Blaine asked after laughing at the songs and lines from some of Polisar's books, including "Dinosaurs I Have Known" and "Don't Do That: A child's guide to bad manners, ridiculous rules and inadequate etiquette."

Polisar hesitated before answering, perhaps thinking back to the controversy the ban on his work had created, then answered that the books were probably available in the school library and definitely in the county libraries.

For a year, Polisar and his award-winning videos, books and tapes were locked out of county schools. An agreement was reached at the end of September, allowing him to perform.

But despite the controversy and lack of work in the county last year, Polisar continued to be in demand in other states and even made an appearance at the White House annual Easter egg roll.

"The teachers and students seemed to enjoy it and understand that it is satire," Polisar said.

"The review committee never heard the songs or saw me perform. On paper, it may seem like silly lyrics. You have to put it in context. You have to loosen up a little."

The lively performance of songs and chats about childhood problems, including mean teachers, spilling items and manners, was not toned down, despite the committee's previous reaction to him.

"I didn't change anything," he said, including a song about mean teachers.Those in the audience didn't seem to mind a bit.

"I got a teacher, she's so mean

"She never laughs and she always screams

"She makes me nervous, makes me squirm

"She says all teachers must be firm

"I know she really loves me

"I got it made, it must be true because I'm still in first grade."

This year, Polisar said he is as busy as ever, with commitments in Utah, Texas, New York, New Jerseyand throughout Maryland.

In Worcester County, school officials have invited him for a three-day residency to perform in all county schools.

Later in the year, he is booked to perform at an Eskimo village in Alaska.

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