The drama became so all-consuming that I actually had to take a couple of days off work to deal with dysfunctional family dynamics, jealousy and romance. And I enjoyed every minute.
That’s because the drama was on stage, where drama belongs.
My daughter was in a youth summer production of Cinderella, and her involvement required parental involvement. I supervised, ushered, sold gifts, stayed up past midnight several nights in a row and made food for the cast party.
But, as my husband so eloquently said, since I’m the one who got my daughter interested in drama, I’m responsible for all that involves.
What he doesn’t realize is that, for such a generally pragmatic person, I crave drama. I grew up with a dad who performed in local theater, and I loved going to plays, especially musicals. But even at a young age, I knew there was more to theater than the story the audience sees on stage.
In reality, the audience members actually get the short end of the deal. That’s because the genuine magic of theater doesn’t happen on the stage. Sometimes, it doesn’t even happen backstage.
It happens with the voice teachers who encourage their students to take a risk and audition for a part in a musical.
It happens with artists who can envision a set and the carpenters and painters who can build it.
It happens in the pit with musicians who can pick up an instrument and learn a piece of music instantly.
And most of all, it occurs in the relationships that are built not with the intent of beating another team or winning a championship. but on making people smile, think, cry, imagine and relate to others.
When a team is focused entirely on that, they can only encourage each other and cheer each other on.
Last week, an adult (make that this adult) made a comment about an actor’s off-key performance. My daughter didn’t even let me finish the sentence.
“He’s nervous, Mom,” she said harshly. “Don’t be critical.”
Last week, I heard parents debating why some youth always get a speaking part while others don’t (yes, this parent was involved in that conversation.) My daughter told me that being part of a cast is fun no matter what the role is.
Last week, I tolerated mothers who worried over hairstyles and costumes. At the same time, I witnessed kids who are generally labeled as misfits being included, hugged and encouraged by their peers.
Last week, I saw adults bringing in large bouquets of fresh flowers to bestow upon the actresses, musicians, directors and producers. At the same time, I sold four plastic flowers to a member of the cast who spent a great deal of time deliberating over just the right message to send to four girls in the chorus: girls who didn’t have any lines. According to the notes the actor finally wrote, all four girls were “amazing stars.”
And he was right.
Everyone involved in the production was contributing his or her unique gifts to make the show a success. Every parent who lost sleep and hauled kids to performances and fundraisers made the show possible. And each person who bought a ticket was telling our young people that theater is important.
I never had that opportunity. For whatever reason, the theater department at my high school was defunct when I graduated. The football, basketball, baseball, track and volleyball programs were all fully supported, but I never heard one person complain that my class never put on a school play.
That saddens me as much today as it did when I was a teenager.
I know the odds of anyone becoming a Hollywood star are just as astronomical as the odds of someone becoming a star athlete. But the odds of a person using the skills they learned in theater – confidence, positive relationships, public speaking and public relationships are extremely good.
And if we support local and youth theater – and the drama that comes with it – the odds are even better.
It’s time we play those odds.