It's happened again. My show has come and gone, and the day afterwards my immune system went on vacation. This happens every time. I go-go-go, work a million miles an hour, sleep very little, and tackle a hundred tasks during the week leading up to a performance, then once we strike the set my health peaces out. I may or may not have zipped off to Target for tissues, ice cream, and NyQuil.
And I might have forgotten the NyQuil.
Last week was tech week for Alice in Wonderland; I have been directing the musical at an elementary school since early January. It is a unique adaptation, calling for 3 Alices who change places and "size" in the course of the show. I'm pretty sure the script was written for a cast of 25, and I had 44 students.
Yes, that's right. There were 44 of them and one of me. There was one music director and one choreography assistant, too, to be fair. Either way we were outnumbered to say the least. Four days a week I would make the trek to the suburbs and be stampeded by 8- to 10-year-olds, all wanting to make it to our classroom first then cause as much chaos as possible. Okay, okay, it was relatively organized chaos and they were pretty great, I'll admit it ;)
Children's theatre is an animal all its own. No matter the exposure to it I've had before, nothing prepared me for this. It has to be approached with a particular mind set and plenty of patience --far different from the world of college theatre I've been living in-- but it is still so valuable. We are cultivating life skills. Yes, I struggle to maintain focus and, yes, singing 1-2-3 Eyes On Me twelve times per day is not ideal, but I am confident that a difference was made.
For some students, they had their first introduction to the world of theatre. How exciting! For others it was an exercise in learning to share focus and work as a team. It was not my job to re-parent them or force an actor's life upon them, but to encourage them in their strengths and instincts and enable them to follow a project through to the end. It was character building in multiple ways.
It was also a trial by fire getting the production on its feet. Our set was donated by an Anthropologie downtown and borrowed from a local church. Our stage hands were parent volunteers, and our mic count went from 10 to 16 to 4 in a hot second. Dress rehearsal flew out the window as students flew down the hall in search of pizza, and our first run of the show was not exactly smooth sailing. But I still call it a successful show.
Why? I learned something. They learned something. And we will all take something with us past the Saturday closing. I learned that my craft --my passion and my art-- will not and cannot continue into the future if I am not an active part in cultivating the future audience. Instilling a love or at least an appreciation for theatre in the next generation is imperative. Remaining present with the child in front of me even when my to-do list is ten pages long is just as important. Sacrificing perfection for progress and personal connection is a must-do and a game changer.
I certainly fell down the rabbit hole this spring. Everything felt topsy turvy and I certainly felt stretched in every which way. Some days I felt on top of the world and at the top of my game. Other days I felt less than an inch tall and as frantic as an ant underfoot. It's the way of the game, so I'm told. But praise the Lord there is grace. Grace to try and fail, grace to succeed. Grace to want to quit and grace to be re-envisioned for the next circus.
Did I mention having a loving and supporting Lifegroup (plus a few) makes a world of difference? These fantastic people drove all the way out to the theatre to attend opening night. They laughed through the line mis-haps and mic mistakes --I can't blame them I
cried laughed, too-- and were quick to encourage when I felt defeated after the curtain fell. I'm so thankful for community and the way these people have rallied around me in recent weeks.
Peter Pan starts in three weeks and it's back on this merry go round. I am so looking forward to this time of rest and relaxation (and a reuniting with friends and family in the great state of Texas) but I am also looking forward to taking what I have learned and putting it into action with this next show. It will be an awfully big adventure ;)