The Best Problem

I walked out in the hushed darkness, ready to give my director’s speech. Your children are wonderful. This show is a blast. Thank you, thank you.

But before I could open my mouth, a rush of children flooded the stage, the piano started, and the lights went up. I looked around me, decided “how could I stop this, anyway?” and ran off stage like a frightened child.

Opening night couldn’t have started any better. They were too excited to wait for me. They ran onstage, their eyes shining, their carefully preened hair all done-up, and their songs as memorized as they’d ever be. I stood in the wings a moment to watch, and I looked at my assistant and said, “We did it!”

They did it.

Three shows, three nearly-full houses, and two long months of rehearsal. We taught them some valuable things:

  • Stage Left is actually on the director’s right, and Stage Right is actually on the director’s left
  • Upstage is towards the back, Downstage is towards the house (which is the audience!)
  • Talking about nervousness makes it worse! Don’t do it!

And, I think, the most important part of performing:

  • You are going to mess up. It’s going to happen. And it’s okay. You might forget a line or exactly which way you’re supposed to turn, and you’ll think quickly and keep going. No one will notice, and if they do, they certainly won’t care.

I believe in preparing children for the real stage, for the real world. For the way things are going to be.

That was the way things were. They did make some mistakes. I sat in the back – the proud director – and it was difficult for me not to laugh even harder at the mistakes. They were adorable, caring so deeply for this little show we’d worked so hard on. In the end, when I ran backstage and told them what a wonderful job they did, they glowed.

The second performance, I reminded them to let me give a speech before they ran onstage. They all stood back in the dark and watched me. I was pretty nervous about it, but every word out of my mouth was true, and real, and I meant it.

Your children are wonderful. Thank you for allowing us to work with them. I was supposed to give this speech last night, but their excitement wouldn’t let me. And that’s a wonderful problem to have.

I walked off stage as quickly as I could, and they all stared at me.

“Thank you,” one little girl said, “that was beautiful.”

As though she were shocked I had something so wonderful to say about her.

[They gave me a bouquet of flowers, a gift card, and a lovely little caricature of me and the cast to hang on my wall. I had been so afraid to take this surprise-job. Maybe learning on the job’s the way to go.]

[I might keep writing about this, just because there was so much good in it. Consider this the first installment.]