I can’t believe I bore two thespians. I couldn’t even fake spit for one scene in a 6th grade Nativity scene. Jon and I have played on many a sports field but never on a stage. I was in awe when they auditioned for small roles in Scrooge last November. They each got a role with a few lines throughout the play. I could manage that commitment. Then they auditioned for a kids-only play in March called The Last Unicorn. I had never heard of it although it was a tv show in the hey days of my youth – the 80’s. Ri and Mario had never heard of it either.
They were like pros at the audition having just auditioned several months earlier. They felt even more emboldened because there were a lot of kids auditioning who had never acted in a play before. We got a call later in the week from the director informing us of the kids’ roles. Maria got a lead as Molly Grue, the scurrilous maid. Mario got three roles as farmer, Culley and the Skull. I hung up with the director and informed the kids of the roles. Mario was excited because he got three different parts. He didn’t care how many lines were in each part; he was just excited that he got three different characters. Maria was upset because she didn’t get the role of unicorn and she only got one role. I told her it was a lead but she remained skeptical.
She wasn’t skeptical after the first practice when they got their scripts. She was in most of the play and had paragraphs upon paragraphs of lines to memorize. What had we agreed to?! Both of them had substantially more lines than they had in the Christmas play. I was both excited and extremely nervous for them. It can be hard as a mom to strike the right balance of wanting to instill responsibility and autonomy in your kids but also wanting to ensure that they are doing what is expected of them. There were many a night when they chose to watch a TV show rather than work on their lines. When I called them out on it, they would typically look at me and say “mom, it’s fine, we are good.” I gave them a night or two to respond with that answer, but then I would crack the whip and require some rehearsing. I felt for the other kids who were relying on M and M to know their lines, and I wanted them to do well in their first major play. They would rehearse once with me and then complain that they were tired and wanted to rest.
And sure enough, on the Monday before the weekend of the show, they went to their first dress rehearsal and had trouble remembering quite a few lines. I worried about how they were going to memorize the rest of their lines by Friday’s performance. That was it – no more balance! We came home and I forced them to rehearse their lines with me every chance they got. And sure enough, by Wednesday night’s dress rehearsal, they had pretty much memorized them all. Mario was still having trouble with his Skull lines, however, and was called out by the director for not knowing them. He made it very clear that he expected Mario to know them for the dry run on Thursday. Mario jumped in the car sulking and anxious the entire way home. I stayed up with him until 11 PM that night working on his lines. We got up the next morning and worked some more. I then came home early from work on Thursday and we rehearsed one more time before heading to the theatre.
It paid off. Mario nailed his Skull scene, and was so pumped. Thank goodness. I knew that he would be ok for the actual shows because he proved to himself that he could memorize and execute on his lines. Maria on the other hand, cranked out all of her lines by Thursday night and did not seem to have much of a problem at all. When she did forget a line or two, she improvised.
We arrived home on Thursday evening at 10:30 PM. We had gotten home after 10 PM every night that week and were all exhausted. The kids were at once extremely charged to perform, and also extremely fatigued from nonstop practices as well as end of school activities.
They had a full house on Friday night. A few of their friends came to watch them, which made their night. They both nailed all of their lines and were so impressive. One little girl approached Maria after the show and asked to get her picture with her. How precious. I worked backstage on Friday night, and was as nervous as can be. For two reasons, I’ve have never worked a show before and I wanted to see Maria and Mario do well. I had some good stagehands who had gone through the process in the past so they barked out orders to me and I followed. The kids did not need me at all but every once in a while Mario would walk up to me and put his arms around me to watch the play for a few minutes from behind the curtain.
Meg and dad came on Saturday night. They had another full house to watch them. Saturday nights are always the best night because you tend to get the rowdy crew who likes to clap and laugh hard. The kids got more into their characters on Saturday night, too. Maria was more animated in her speech, and Mario tried to make people laugh with all his gestures. I stayed behind stage again on Saturday night and was a little bit more comfortable with my tasks. Maria was starving that night; luckily I had brought peanut butter pretzels and a few other snacks. She gulped down a handful of pretzels and looked at me in distress.
“i’m still so hungry, mom. I can’t think about my lines because I’m so hungry.”
I froze. Oh my gosh, What if she worked this hard and now gets out there and forgets for lines because she’s starving to death? I gave her two more handfuls of pretzels and told her that she could get through it and we would have a huge Dairy Queen blizzard afterwards. She walked away to get to her place for the next scene. About 10 minutes later, I walked over to her to see how she was holding up. She turned around and gave me a big hug and told me she was fine. As I walked away, she added “I love you, mom.” Melt.
A few minutes later I was behind the stage trying to find a sword for one of the actors. Mario was nervous about going out as Skull. I told him he was going to do great. He wrapped his arms around me and held onto me for a minute while staring at the wall. I didn’t make a move but rather breathed in the moment. Here were both of my kids conquering their fears and going out on stage to entertain people. I was so incredibly proud – and in awe – of the both of them.
They rocked out Saturday night. They had an even better time performing due to the involvement of the audience.
We hit the DQ afterwards, and Maria and her friend spent the night at our house while Mario and his friend spent the night at his friend’s house. It was probably not the best idea in hindsight since we had one last performance on Sunday afternoon but after all the practicing, the parents felt like it was well-deserved and well, why not?
Sunday’s performance came way too quick; the kids looked exhausted. My mom and Patty came up for this performance, which had a pretty packed house as well. The kids recited all their lines perfectly and added even more spunk to their performances for the final show. Mario had everyone laughing with his gestures and with his animated movements. Maria had everybody feeling for her character with the intensity of her acting. She also had Jon and I cracking up with her fairly routine yawning while standing on stage. There were quite a few scenes where she just had to stand and listen to other actors. We would catch her sporting a huge yawn followed by a tiny one. At one point, she had to say a line and she was in the middle of a yawn. She was somehow able to make it look natural. A true actor, she is!
We stuck around after the show to clean up for a couple of hours, and then ended the night with some Greater’s ice cream along with others in the cast. I am thankful that the experience allowed them to meet other kids outside of Grandview. They also got to act again with a few of the 20-something actors that were in the Christmas show. They look up to them, and Mario is fascinated with one of the male actors who is just as silly and physical as he is.
I received quite a few compliments on how well the kids acted. One of Mario’s friends told his mom that Mario made him want to try out acting because Mario looked like he was having so much fun. At the last show, one of the actors who had a daughter in the play approached me about Maria. She told me how much she appreciated Maria taking her daughter under her wing during the show. Her daughter tends to be very shy and a little backwards around people, but Maria continued to engage with her through each play and she eventually opened up with Maria. She just could not say enough about what a huge heart Maria had and how impressed she was with her.
Recently, my colleague and I were talking about all things motherhood. At the end of the conversation, she said “you have two great kids.” It’s a remark I take for granted like hearing “your hair looks good today.” I worry myself sick some days about whether I’m doing enough with these kids, teaching them enough, exposing them to enough. I’ve got to get better at giving myself some praise as well; patting myself on the back and confirming that I’m doing an alright job. The kids are happy; they are active and healthy; they open up their minds to different activities; they love with all their selves. Heck, they just finished a fricken play where they had to act on stage in front of strangers. I would have never done that at their ages.
Now, if I could just get them to routinely clean their rooms….