It’s been five years since she visited Charleston, but Susan Jeremy is still in the fourth grade.
She’s returning to Piccolo Spoleto with her one-woman show based on her experiences as a substitute teacher in the New York public school system.
“I was exposed to a world I’d never seen before,” she says. “It was madness.”
There’s no training for substitutes. You get the OK and they give you the keys to the classroom. Once there, you have deceptive kids who would rather be playing in the schoolyard than studying history. Oh, and then there’s the classroom gerbil that gets loose and leads Jeremy on a chase around the classroom.
“You open the door to call for help and there’s silence, because everyone is sealed off dealing with their own problems,” Jeremy says.
With director Molly DeKowski, whose children attended the school, Jeremy compiled her experiences into the hour-long show with 24 characters — all played by Jeremy.
The shows changed a little over the years. There’s a better ending (we won’t spoil) and Jeremy’s years with these characters have made each sharper.
“It’s exactly where it needs to be,” she says.
Charleston’s not the only city that’s getting a second helping of P.S. 69. The response has been surprising, Jeremy says.
“I didn’t know what we had with this show,” she says. “We didn’t think people were going to take it and get it.”
And audiences have gotten it — that underneath the humor of the eccentric characters is the reality of a troubled school where things aren’t so dire.
“The school system, as crazy as it is, really does work,” Jeremy says. “It’s almost like it’s set up for failure. So when it succeeds, it’s really wonderful.”
P.S. 69 • Piccolo Spoleto’s Piccolo Fringe • $15 • (55 min.) • May 31 at 8 p.m.; June 2 and 3 at 2 p.m. • Theatre 99, 280 Meeting St. • 554-6060