The Little Rascals always made it look so easy.
“Let’s put on a show,” they said. Then they did.
Usually in a barn. For a group of dirt-poor Depression-era kids, there were somehow always costumes.
The Flory Dory girls danced. It was glorious. As a new to drama, mama (like what I did there?), I had no idea what actually goes into putting on a show. I figured that high school plays involved some sets, some rehearsals, maybe they ran through a few dance numbers, and then showtime!
Oh, sweet naive me. Girlwonder signed up for a part in the high school play and, well, anything goes! (That was the play, by the way).
It started with her trying out for a part, any part, she didn’t care. She figured she’d end up humming in the background. Maybe faux chatting at a table in a background scene.
Heck, she would have enjoyed painting sets. Then she fell into the hands of a very talented director who encouraged her as teachers are prone to do. She blew her first run at singing in rehearsal and was encouraged, kindly, to take a deep breath and start over.
She belted it out and landed a secondary lead. (Insert humble brag here).
She would play Erma in Anything Goes. Let me tell you it’s delightful and de-lovely to explain to Mr. Wonderful and the very protective big brother, Boywonder, that her part basically consists of being the female all the sailors want to marry.
We were invited to a parent meeting where we were told what to expect. We were told to expect to be asked to provide food, props, and any discernible talent we had. We were told to expect to barely see our children as they got closer to opening night.
All of these expectations were wise and predictions true.
They worked long hours. I don’t know if the Little Rascals ever had to schedule weeks off work, but one of our actresses noted that she loved the play, but did not love the $200 pay cut she took.
These tireless teens worked around sports schedules, chores, and homework. I don t know if the Little Rascals ever spent Tech Week running dress rehearsals from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. every day and then coming home to hours of chemistry homework before a big final while fighting a cold but my actress did.
Like every parent everywhere, I imagine, I sat as close to the stage as humanly possible on opening night. It was as close as I could get to my girl without ending up in the orchestra pit.
I don’t think I breathed normally until after GirlWonder’s big solo in the second act. From the moment she opened her mouth and rendered a perfect diva rendition of Buddy Beware, I knew she could — and would — nail it.
Only then did I exhale and enjoy the show. I wonder if Barbra Streisand’s mom sat in the dark, just praying that her daughter wouldn’t trip or forget her lines. If so, it works!
Taking a risk
The thing about let’s put on a show is that the performers are putting their hearts, souls, and for high school students, often their ‘reputations,’ on the line. It takes a certain pizzazz and bravery behind talent to step out onto a stage in front of your peers and dance, sing and deliver lines often written in a lingo of long, long ago.
As a parent I sat in the dark for all three shows. Each performance ran like clockwork to those in the audience, and was as unique and different for the cast and crew.
Microphones cut out, shoes slipped and sailor suits went MIA, and even teens grew tired of pizza (who knew that was even possible?). Through it all they sang, danced and tapped. Never breaking character. Always staying true to the job they had to do.
What a marvelous lesson for life, really. I don’t know if Girlwonder will ever perform in another play. She seems both exhilarated and exhausted. We hope she will, of course.
We know, however, that even if she never faces the footlights again she will carry the lessons of putting on a show with her for good.
The average high school student production is three or more months of blood (set building is not for sissies and blisters are real), sweat and tears. It is long rehearsals, late nights, and building camaraderie and friendships along with acting chops. During that time they aren’t just learning lines, they are learning life skills.
Try hard. Work harder. Lean on your backup actors, never underestimate the power of a good crew, know your lines and through it all — improvise and just keep dancing!
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