Friday, June 29, 2007

Hard Work

For the past couple of years I have had the pleasure of sharing a significant part of my summer with my children performing at a small theater company here in Central Vermont. I started out as a “child wrangler” while my three sons were in the chorus of “Annie.” Last year I graduated to a part (Lazar Wolf) in “Fiddler on the Roof” (the boys were cast as choristers/villagers), and this year my 12-year-old boys and 10-year-old daughter were cast as waifs and thieves and I as Mr. Brownlow in “Oliver.”

This could be an essay about the importance of spending time with your kids and creating lasting memories that no photo album or journal could adequately capture. It could also be an essay about the joy of community theater.

But it’s an essay on that which is often overlooked by people who haven’t worked behind the scenes to produce a theater, music, dance or other arts event. This is about the HARD WORK that goes into making these productions come to life and the valuable lessons learned in the process.

All our friends say, “You must be having such a great time doing such a great show with such great people” “Yeah”, I say, “but it’s also HARD WORK.”

Except for a half-hour break for meals, every moment we are at the theater is taken up working on dance routines, rehearsing our lines, going over our blocking, and figuring out our characters’ reasons for behaving the way they do. The fact is that as much fun as the end product is, as effortless as the choreography and singing appears to people in the audience, and as cool and self-assured as we players pretend to be—it really all comes down to those two words: HARD WORK.

All four of my children know all the songs and all the lines of everyone in the show and I think my kids get a great deal of pleasure in watching Dad stumble over the words to the fourth (or is it fifth?) verse of Food Glorious Food for the 20th time. But delightful and chipper as they feel at the beginning of rehearsal, they are stone tired and in a foul mood by the end of rehearsal. Why? HARD WORK.

At home the kids tend to be slobs…leaving their clothes (costumes) and their toys (props) in discrete piles all over the place.

Not at the theater.

At home Mom and Dad make sure they get their homework done, get to bed on time, eat food that is good for them (hahahaha!), and take them to their next play date.

Not at the theater.

At the theater, they have to learn their own lines, rest when they can, eat what is served to them (and say thank you as well), and get themselves to their next entrance, on time and on cue.

At the theater, they are on their own. They depend on each other to know who does what in the correct sequence. They have to take care of their own costumes, know where their own dance shoes are, clean up their own area after dinner, wash their hands, preset their own props and put them back at the end of the scene, say their lines in the proper order, and dance with other kids who aren’t even of the same sex (yuck)!!!

Then, when they’ve run every scene perfectly in sequence—twice—and they have demonstrated they know what to wear, what to say, what to sing, and how to dance, they have to do it all over again…“from the top.”

My daughter, for whom this is a first-time experience, looked up with a very tired expression on her face after the first week of rehearsals. “Dad,” she said, “for two years I’ve been so jealous of you and my brothers going off every day to rehearsals. How come you didn’t tell me this was such HARD WORK!?”

It’s all I can do to keep the smile off my face.

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