Jenntertainment's Weblog

Adventures in children's theatre.

What I Did on My Vacation July 8, 2013

Filed under: My Job is Weirder Than Your Job — jenntertainment @ 11:29 pm
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     My favorite school activity was always Creative Writing, except for when the assignment was one of those awful “What I Did on My Vacation” journals. Other kids would write things like “I visited my grandparents in South Carolina and went fishing. It was fun.” If it was a really good vacation, they might write “We went to Disney World and my brother threw up on Space Mountain.”

     My summer journals were never so mundane. In fact, I still have one from the fourth grade that reads like this:

     “I had a lot of rehearsals on this ‘vacation.’ You couldn’t really call it a vacation, though, since I feel like I worked harder than I do when I’m at school. We had rehearsals almost every day for a play we’re doing called Gypsy and even though I’m only in the first act, there is a lot to be done. Gypsy is a play about a real-life stripper named Gypsy Rose Lee, and I play her when she’s a little girl (before she’s a stripper, that is).

     “When I’m not on stage, I’m usually helping backstage with costumes or microphones. It was really difficult finding ways to hide the microphones this time, since most of the girls hardly wear anything, but my dad says that I’m the expert. I also get to help Michelle with all of her costume changes, which keeps me pretty busy because she’s the lead. We also had to paint and build the set, and that takes a long time. Some nights we were there until two or three in the morning, but to be honest, I like those nights the best.

     “My favorite part of the play is “You Gotta Get a Gimmick.” That’s when all the different strippers show off their routines, like light-up panties, butterfly wings and Mazeppa who likes to ‘bump it with a trumpet.’ It’s so funny.  After all that work, mom says we need a vacation from our vacation. I agree.”

     It may come as no surprise that I rarely got to read my reports out loud. Not all of my essays were about strippers; some were about learning how to load fake guns, getting makeup lessons from drag queens, or explaining the origin of the term avante garde, which I learned during a production of Mame. I vividly remember consulting my teacher’s aide about how to spell it, but she simply raised her eyebrows and said “Well, if it ain’t in the dictionary, and if I ain’t heard of it, then it ain’t a real word.” That was the first time I ever felt smarter than an adult.

     What did my teachers think I was doing with my nights and weekends, and how many times did they consider calling child services? Fortunately, my principal acted alongside me in many productions, including Gypsy, and we had a secret pact. “You never tell anyone at school that you’ve seen me dance in chaps,” he bribed, “and I’ll give you excused absences on your opening nights.”  It was a pretty good deal.

     A few of my friends were also theatre kids, raised in similarly unconventional environments. Like me, my friend Laura loathed Career Day assignments, because neither of us could explain our parents properly. While I tried to enlighten my classmates on the intricacies of the burlesque striptease, she had to tell everyone that her father sang at outdoor festivals dressed as Uncle Sam.

     The confused faces of our peers were the first signs to us that we were a little different. Then we both grew up and found out that not everyone has a costume closet in their house, and that most people spend their 4th of July attending fireworks shows, not standing outside on the roof of an 18-wheeler wearing earplugs and watching your mother call pyro shots in time to the 1812 Overture.

     I was quite content to lead a double-life; one filled with reading, writing, and kickball; the other filled with music, glitter, and provocative dances. The thing is, you don’t realize that your family is different until someone tells you so. But 17 years later, with a house in the suburbs and a job that sometimes requires fishnets, I still struggle to answer the simple question of “What do you do?” without feeling like that little kid standing in front of her class, reading an essay about strippers.

 

Little Women and Little Men April 28, 2013

Filed under: Jenn-eral — jenntertainment @ 11:44 pm
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     When I was eight years old, I did my very first play, Peter Pan. The director of that play would, in time, become my mentor and dearest friend, and the cast of that play would become the cast of my life, populated by future best friends, boyfriends, and my Maid of Honor.  But this isn’t a story about Peter Pan. This is a story about Little Women. 

     Just today I closed a beautiful production of Little Women the Musical (incidentally, stage managed by my aforementioned Maid of Honor and fellow Lost Boy), to great reviews. Our cast was exquisite, each of them perfectly suited for their role, and passionate about this remarkable story. After praising the performance, every audience member I spoke with would tell me the story of how they came to love Little Women. Each of them – mothers, grandmothers, daughters, sisters – had their own personal relationship with Louisa May Alcott’s classic tale. They remembered reading it aloud to their children, or listening to the book on tape on long car rides, or reading the chapter with Laurie’s proposal so many times that the pages fell out of the binding. Their stories made me think back to when I first became acquainted with Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy, nearly 20 years ago at a rehearsal for Peter Pan. 

     As I got ready for my first rehearsal, my mom suggested that I pack a book. She said that rehearsals were long, so I figured that the book I brought should be long as well. I grabbed Little Women, the thickest book on my shelf, and went off to Never Land with the March sisters in tow.

     A few weeks into rehearsal, I still hadn’t made it through the first chapter. I would start on page one, get completely lost in the vocabulary by page three, and sit there reading the same passage over and over again. Rhett, one of the teenage boys playing in Captain Hook’s band of pirates, asked me why such a very little girl was reading such a very large book. When I confessed that I didn’t understand any of it, Rhett did something truly remarkable, especially for pirate. He took the book from my lap and began to read it aloud.

     He explained to me that I was reading it all wrong. “You can’t read something like this to yourself,” he said. “There’s too many characters. You have to read it like a script, like a play.”  And so we did. We read each of the characters out loud to each other with different voices and faces, acting out the March family Christmas right there in the hallway. He had a prim, proper-sounding voice for Meg, and a whiny, nasally-toned voice for Amy. His Mr. Laurence was loud and booming, while his Aunt March was derivative of Julia Child. Rhett’s Laurie was handsome and bumbling, just as he was. With Rhett’s help, I slowly made it through all of Jo’s ups and downs. I also developed my first crush.

     Watching the story now, through more adult eyes, I find myself more and more astonished by how our lives turn out. Jo, who swears she’ll never marry, finds herself running a school with her husband. Amy, the young artiste who wishes for grandeur and fame, marries the boy next door. Beth, an angel in disguise, leaves her family all too soon. When I think of my humble beginnings in a community playhouse, I realize that I am blessed beyond measure to have been able to make theatre my livelihood, working right alongside my family and my best friends that I met while rehearsing Barrie and reading Alcott.

     I’ll never know why Rhett, a vivacious boy scout, chose to sit down with a little girl and help her to fall in love with a classic novel. Just like I’ll never know why, ten years later, Rhett would lose his life to a freak accident when his hotel balcony collapsed. What I do know is that he changed the way I saw those little women, and transformed the way that I read books. Like Beth March, he, too, was an angel in disguise.

 

Oh, The Thinks You Can Think! March 5, 2012

Filed under: The Show Must...You Know... — jenntertainment @ 12:08 pm
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Seussical the Musical!

Our most recent Main Stage production, Seussical, has finally come and gone. This is one of my all-time favorite musicals, and as soon as I saw it on our season I knew it was going to be a blast! I’ve directed the junior version before, but never the full-length, and not on this scale. For me, Seussical was like another Joseph…Dreamcoat. I was slated to be choreographer, not director, yet the entire show is music. This time, unlike Joseph, the director agreed to share directorial credit with me. I know it sounds small, but if I’m going to basically stage every moment of the show that the audience is paying to see, I’d kind of like for them to know I had something to do with it. 🙂

Credit decided, we split up the work into two halves. She designed the costumes and props (of which there were hundreds), we designed the set together, and I choreographed the show with her input. I think it was because of this clear communication and collaboration from the very beginning that the show went so beautifully. Everyone was on the same page, everything got done on time, and every piece fit right into place. Amazing!

Since the theatre has grown so large so quickly, the Artistic Director and I have had to sort of “divide and conquer” the different programs that we offer. It’s been almost two years since she and I worked on a show together, and I think we’ve proven once again that we work exceptionally well as a team. My strength is in the big picture, and her’s is in the detail. Together, with the help of our amazing design team and volunteers, we are able to put on a well-polished production that our community can be proud of!

The question, of course, is how do we repeat this process with other people? Can we put together a production schedule template to assist other directorial teams in the same theatre? Can we, through organized processes, create the same kind of success with other productions? Can we learn to improve upon our weaknesses and share our strengths? How do we create successful collaboration for ourselves and others in the future?

No, really. How do we do this? Anyone? Beuller?

Collaboration, like any partnership or marriage, is an intimate process. In order for it to work successfully, both (or all) parties have to be willing to stand up or lie down for certain causes. There must be an equal give-and-take of power, decision making, and compromise. Some people say that in a compromise nobody gets what they really want. In my experience, the very act of having to explain and defend your artistic choices can be a powerful, powerful tool. If I can succinctly answer the question why do I feel strongly about this? then the idea is a go. If I can’t define it, then it probably isn’t a strong choice, and despite my willful obstinance, it probably doesn’t mean that much to me anyway. As long as both parties understand this concept and are willing to play by the rules, you can make great progress together. By getting rid of the ambivalent, you enhance the good!

I seem to have gone off on a bit of a tangent. My point is only that, in my opinion, this show worked because this partnership worked. Because of our cohesion, the cast and crew were all well-informed and well-rehearsed, which made them confident. Their confidence transferred into strong, energetic performances that enthused the audience and garnered us fantastic reviews via print and word of mouth! Every member of the cast was proud of the work that they had put in to this show, so they talked it up! They put out posters (more than we’ve ever run for any show!), sold program advertisements (more than we’ve ever sold for any playbill!), put us on Facebook and Twitter, sent emails to their friends and family, and marketed the show for us with their own enthusiasm. You just can’t buy that kind of publicity.

As a result, we had a nearly sold-out run of thirteen performances, which is pretty fantastic for a community theatre production in our area. Dr. Seuss’ famous characters are beloved by young and old, and it was wonderful to see our audience filled with several generations of the same family, all enjoying the same performance together. I love beyond words that we are dedicated to creating entertainment that the entire family can enjoy. I hope that our productions inspire family conversations. I hope that the experiences they have in our theatre seats lead to them spending more time together doing things that they all appreciate, like reading books together, playing dress-up, doing arts and crafts, asking questions, and thinking thinks! I hope this for every one of our performances, but on some productions, the likelihood seems so much higher.

So here’s to you, cast and crew of Seussical! Thanks for all the thinks. 🙂

 

Is Theatre Right for Your Child? February 24, 2012

Every year, parents across the country are forced to send their children somewhere – anywhere – after school, in an attempt to keep their kids entertained and out of trouble until dinnertime. The choices are many, and some parents may find it overwhelming to choose the perfect extracurricular activity for their child. I have taken the liberty of creating this simple quiz to aid puzzled parents in the decision-making process.

1. Does your child excel in sports?
A) My child is the next Michael Phelps
B) My child can run, if necessary
C) My child prefers to challenge the mind instead of the body
D) My child has a written note from a counselor excusing him/her from gym class forever

2. Does your child make friends easily?
A) Very Easily: My child has never met a stranger
B) Somewhat Easily: My child has a lot of friends on Facebook
C) Struggles Somewhat: My child has a few close friends
D) Struggles: My child’s friends are mostly imaginary

3. Does your child tan well?
A) Like a Greek god/goddess
B) Burns a little, then tans
C) Burns to a crisp
D) Not Applicable; we can’t get him/her to go outside

4. Does your child have any allergies or dietary restrictions?
A) No known allergies
B) Mild seasonal allergies
C) Moderate seasonal allergies and a mild peanut allergy
D) Severe environmental allergies and extreme allergies to nuts, soy, wheat, dairy, eggs, latex, chocolate, and cotton.

5. Is your child currently receiving emotional/psychological counseling?
A) He/She has never received counseling
B) Not currently, but he/she has received counseling in the past
C) Our family attends one counseling session per week
D) He/She attends one or more family session and two or more private sessions per week

6. What does your child think about the shows Glee and Smash?
A) Likes the stories, but hates all that senseless singing and dancing.
B) Likes it, but isn’t obsessed.
C) Loves it, and actually thinks that it’s cool to walk around with an “L” on his/her forehead.
D) Loves it, but thinks he/she could sing or dance it better.

Sports
If you answered mostly A’s, then your child is best suited for sports activities. Whether it’s horseback riding, swimming, soccer or lacrosse (whatever that is), your child will excel in a competitive atmosphere that keeps them physically active and perfectly tanned all year long.

Academics
If you answered mostly B’s, then permanent relocation to the world of academia is in your child’s future. Encourage their studies by buying them pocket protectors, and letting them join the math club, chess club, or debate team. Though they may have some difficulty fitting in at school, they will eventually find their niche, and possibly win the Nobel Prize.

Crafts
If you answered mostly C’s, then your child would be best suited for a life of kitsch and craft glue. They may squirrel away in their room for hours at a time, but when they resurface, they will have created a memento of lasting beauty. Enroll them in classes at your local craft store, or find a scrapbooking club. If their genius is cultivated, they may end up with their own show on the DIY Network.

Theatre
If you answered mostly D’s, then please take your child immediately to the nearest children’s theatre. If your child is bookish, sensitive, creative, and needy, then he/she is the perfect candidate for a life on the boards. The boys will learn to apply makeup and sew sequins on their clothes, while the girls will learn how to use a mitre saw and open paint cans with their teeth. Most importantly, they will be surrounded by kindred spirits, and be happier than you ever thought possible. I hope to meet you and your child very soon. 🙂

 

The Homing Mushroom February 23, 2012

This is a story about a mushroom. However, in order for me to tell you that story, I must first tell you another one; a story about a question.

The very first musical that my boss directed in our hometown was also the very first musical that I was ever in, outside of church pageants and school chorus concerts. I vividly remember swinging on the play set in our backyard one day after school and seeing my mom open the sliding glass door onto our back porch. When she opened the door she also opened her mouth and asked me one question: “Would you like to audition for a play?”

To say that this question changed my life is the understatement of the century. In reality, that question affected many lives more than anyone can possibly fathom. Because of that question, that invitation to do something new and exciting, my world was transformed! Because of that question, an infinite realm of possibilities was opened to me, and my life slowly began to take shape. Because of that question, I met my future best friends, my future co-workers, and my maid of honor, not to mention my future mentor and partner in theatre crime. Perhaps I’m being a bit melodramatic, but that’s always been my way, which is yet another reason why that question “would you like to audition for a play?” was so impactful for me.

There are only two more things about this question that you need to know before I continue with my story. The first is that after answering “yes,” we went to the theatre (which was really a room that was being rented out by the local police precinct, but that is a third and fourth story altogether), filled out some forms, and whammo! I was in a musical. The second is that the name of that musical was Peter Pan, and as everyone knows, Peter Pan takes place in Never Never Land, where the Lost Boys have an underground hideaway that has an entrance disguised as a tree trunk and a chimney disguised as a mushroom.

This is a story about a mushroom.

The mushroom that was used in that production of Peter Pan was custom-built out of an old sonotube, vinyl, and some stuffing. In my memory, it was painted yellow with purple polka dots and a brown stump, but I’ve seen it painted in so many different ways over the years (dare I say decades?) that I am likely wrong about this. In Peter Pan, Captain Hook and Smee stop to rest on this oversized toadstool in the forests of Never Never Land, only to have their britches catch on fire in an overplayed bit of physical comedy. When they see the smoke coming from the bottom of the mushroom, they realize that it is, in fact, the hiding place of Peter Pan! The plot thickens.

After this one scene, the mushroom is no longer relevant to the story, and it spends the rest of the play off stage. But as we all know, children’s fairy tales almost always include enchanted forests, which almost always call for a magical mushroom. The mushroom might be a bed for Thumbelina, a hiding place for Snow White, or even a snack for a famished hunter. In any case, once our giant, polka-dotted mushroom was finished with its run in Peter Pan, it had many other roles to play in many other stories, building itself quite an extensive performance resume.

Over the years, the mushroom became somewhat of a local celebrity. Those of us in the theatre community would always look for it, wondering how it would be recycled next. If a character ran into the woods, chances were he would find himself tripping over this now-famous fungus. In time, it became a challenge to see how our director would incorporate it into each show. Sometimes it would be covered with a cloth and serve as an ottoman in someone’s living room, or sometimes it would be bedazzled and used as a footstool for trying on glass slippers. Sometimes it was just on stage for no reason at all other than to continue the tradition. “Cue the mushroom!” became the popular command backstage, where no one wanted to be responsible for forgetting to include it in the night’s performance. From Peter Pan to Winnie the Pooh to Big River, I don’t think that little fungi ever missed an entrance.

In a story that is not quite mine to tell, my boss decided to leave that theatre program and begin a new community theatre of her own that would be dedicated solely to children’s plays. After ten years of working for the same company, she had to leave behind all of the costumes, scenery and props that the program had accrued throughout its years under her direction. She said goodbye to her beloved toadstool, and, with me again at her side, we started the children’s theatre that now keeps us (and countless others) busy morning, noon, and night.

During one of our first productions as a new company, we asked to borrow the original mushroom, but were told that it had been thrown away in a recent purging of the theatre’s storage unit. After a suitable period of mourning, I asked a crew member to make me a similar mushroom, but it just wasn’t the same. The mushroom of legend, it seemed, it had taken its last bow.

I would now like you to fast forward with me through eight years of wild, zany, children’s theatre shenanigans, and through countless enchanted forest scenes featuring logs, tree stumps, and giant flowers, but no mushrooms. It is a Monday afternoon, and I am teaching a tap class in our dance studio while my boss is running down the hallway, panting “my mushroom is back, my mushroom is back!” and grinning from ear to ear.

I followed her down the hall and into our lobby, to see the mushroom sitting there in all its glory! The cushion is now tan with multiple colors of stripes and spots, but if I squint I swear I can still see the original purple polka dots peering through the 19 years of paint!

It turns out that, eight years ago, a young couple expecting their first child bought this strangely wonderful, oversized mushroom ottoman from a thrift store. They kept it in their little girl’s fairy-themed nursery until this month when, in a fit of redecorating, they decided to throw it out. But on their way to the dump, the mother asked herself a question: “Couldn’t that children’s theatre down the street use an adorable fairy toadstool in a play?”

And that question, while it didn’t change any lives, certainly changed an ordinary afternoon at work into an extraordinary trip down memory lane.

The Mushroom of Legend

The Mushroom of Legend

 

Sonnets January 26, 2009

Filed under: Only Small Actors — jenntertainment @ 5:26 am
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SONNETS

On M.L.K. day, only a handful of students attended our scheduled rehearsal for SCT’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Instead of blocking without all of our characters, I decided to spend the time introducing them to a little thing called the Shakespearian sonnet. After playing around with some of the Bard’s verse, I asked the students to write their own sonnets, using his unique format. I chose not to give them a writing theme or topic or opening line, but just to have them create words and phrases of their own, as they were inspired to do. Here are some of their offerings.

 

‘I stood alone and watched you dance.

You seemed to shine with ethereal light.

I approached you, took a breath, a chance,

But my disturbance shattered the illusion of that night.

Maybe our love was merely a dream,

A nightmare of when we joined to make us.

The haunting remnants of when it seemed

That we were honest and truly in love.

I’m still waiting for your memory to fade

But my heart won’t seem to let you go.

The many promises, under moonlight made,

Bitter falsehoods the morning light did show.

And so our love lies in the past,

Broken and destroyed, like shattered glass.’

A. Schulz, age 16

 

‘Standing in the midst of war

Deep inside his heart did search

A soldier praying to the skies for more

Time for life to leave its perch.

Staring at the blood around

Mixed with memories of early years

And fallen comrades slain on ground

Did awaken his darkest fears.

Tears shed for what just might have been

Had mankind been less a beast

He wept for unforgiven sin

And pondered on the devil’s feast.

For non but devil could cause such pain

As to fall in battle, never to rise again.’

                                                                K. Buice, age 15

 

‘The sun awakens a sleepy sky

Upon a dewy tree trunk I rest.

I wait and watch as the fire birds fly,

Igniting the sun, and brightness at its best.

The morning’s deafening silence rang

This forest is dead, yet so alive.

And in it so far, no birds have sang.

I haven’t been back here since the age of five.

Memories are stirring

I don’t want to come home.

I know changes are occurring.

A nearby river flows, covered by white foam.

As golden dawn turns into noon,

I know the time I dread is coming soon.’

B. Hegarty, age 13

 

‘The sun sets on a deep blue sea.

Heaven rises in the sky, waves blend with the clouds.

We sit on a bridge, a journey to be free.

There is no noise, but the silence is loud.

A sudden calm, like never felt before.

Wild, beautiful, killer creature slowly jumps high,

Jumps so high with a passion in her core.

One by one, millions come, with her they lie.

We look on with awe. I want to join, to swim along.

They wail, those whales, slowly swimming on a secret path.

If only this was real, not a dream or song

But still this sight rids me of all my wrath.

And somehow, they guide me as well,

Entrancing me in some magical spell.’

                                                                K. Charbonneau, age 15

 

‘A burst of life

A spark of light

To diminish strife

And end all plight.

An explosion of sound

An endless chatter

As people are found

By those that matter.

A sigh of relief

Is slowly amassed

With the certain belief

That the storm has passed.

And so people disperse back into the dawn

Now that the power is finally back on.’

                                                                M. Slotin, age 13

 

‘Sitting in the trees

All day long,

Swaying in the breeze

To my favorite song

Seeing little birds

Fly around me in the sky

Like they are in some sort of herd

Me wishing that I could fly

Dreaming as I sleep

So many happy things

Becoming so very deep

To my mind they would cling

Hoping to never wake

From this wonderful daily break.’

                                                                G. Anderson, age 16

 

‘The butterfly sucks the pollen out of the bloom

Flower protrudes out of the soil

The light shineth through the window at noon.

Wind softly flows, the grass looks royal,

The sweet sugar stirs in the tea.

Sun and moon love, stars neareth,

They switcheth in love. Me?

I try my love to pleaseth.

The torture apart,

A violin plays a soft melody.

The love we have is art,

When we come together, no fidelity.

The clouds are not crying

For I am not lying.’

                                                                N. Pearlman, age 13

 

Yeah, I mean it when I say these kids are awesome.

 

What I Did On My Vacation January 3, 2009

Filed under: Jenn-eral — jenntertainment @ 4:52 am
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My favorite school activity was always the Creative Writing assignment, except for when it came time for those awful “What I Did on My Vacation” entries. Other kids would write things like “Today I slept until two o’clock, played basketball and ate macaroni and cheese.” Or sometimes “We went to visit my grandparents in South Carolina and went fishing. It was fun.” If it was a really good vacation, they might write “My family went to Disney World. Donald was my favorite.” Mine were never so direct or easy to understand. In fact, I still have one from fourth grade that reads like this:

“I had a lot of rehearsals on this ‘vacation.’ You couldn’t really call it a vacation, though, since I feel like I worked harder than I do when I’m at school. We had rehearsals almost every day for a play we’re doing called Gypsy and even though I’m only in the first act, there is a lot to be done. Gypsy is a play about a real-life stripper named Gypsy Rose Lee, and I play her when she’s a little girl (before she’s a stripper, that is).

“When I’m not on stage, I’m usually helping backstage with costumes or microphones. It was really difficult finding ways to hide the microphones this time, since most of the girls hardly wear anything, but my dad says that I’m the expert. I also get to help Michelle with all of her costume changes, which keeps me pretty busy because she’s the lead. We also had to paint and build the set, and that takes a long time. Some nights we were there until two or three in the morning, but to be honest, I like those nights the best.  
                
My favorite part of the play is “You Gotta Get a Gimmick.” That’s when all the different strippers show off their routines, like light-up panties, butterfly wings and Mazeppa who likes to “bump it with a trumpet.” It’s so funny. After all that work, mom says we need a vacation from our vacation. I agree.”

It may come as no surprise that I rarely got to read my reports in their entirety, as my elementary school teachers were too afraid of what was coming next. Not all of my essays were about strippers; some were about learning how to load fake guns, makeup lessons from drag queens, or explaining the origin of the term avante garde, which I learned during a production of Mame. I have a vivid memory of consulting my second-grade teacher about the spelling of the word, since I couldn’t find it in the dictionary. She simply turned her head, raised her eyebrows and said “Well, if it ain’t in the dictionary, and if I ain’t heard of it, then it ain’t a real word.” This was the first time I ever felt smarter than an adult.

What did my teachers think I was doing with my nights and weekends, and how many times did they try to call child services? Fortunately, my principal from grades 3-6 was a community theatre participant himself. He and I acted alongside each other in many productions, including Gypsy, and we had a pact. “You never tell anyone at school that you’ve seen me dance in a cowboy costume,” he bribed, “and I’ll give you excused absences on your opening nights.”  It was a pretty good deal.

A few of my friends at school were also theatre kids, raised in unconventional environments. Like me, my friend Laura loathed What Your Parents Do at Work Day because neither of us could explain it properly. While I tried to enlighten my classmates on the intricacies of theatrical sound design, she had to tell everyone that her father was a music historian, or more aptly, a balladeer that attended outdoor festivals dressed as Uncle Sam, Henry VIII or a Civil War veteran singing jaunty, era-appropriate tunes. We would often find ourselves in conversations like this one:

ME: I can’t spend the night tomorrow, I have an opening.

THEM: A what?

ME: At the theatre. Remember, I said I was in a show?

THEM: Thee-ate-er? Like a movie?

ME: No, not a movie. A play.

THEM: A play? Like what we do here at school every Christmas?

ME: Yes, kind of.

THEM: Why’d anyone wanna do that on purpose?

ME: Well, it isn’t really like school plays. They’re better and more fun. You should come see me!

THEM: Yeah, alright.

They never came. I didn’t expect them to. I was quite content to lead a double-life, one filled with reading, writing and the dreaded arithmetic and kickball, the other filled with costumes, paint, glitter, lights, songs, dances and tangled plots that resolve in two hours or less. To this day I find it odd to answer the simple question of “so, what do you do?” without feeling like that little kid standing in front of her class, reading an essay about strippers.