I don’t have kids, but The Mr and I go to a lot of high school plays. It’s not as creepy as it sounds, I promise. We’re actually the leaders of our small-town church youth group and so we always try and show up to major things that the kids are doing, like track meets, soccer games, and musicals.
We had two weekends in a row of being supportive mentors this past week, and while I’m sure a lot of you are thinking that this sounds like some sort of self-inflicted torture, both shows (Young Frankenstein and Footloose) were pretty incredible.
I was in drama club in high school, and there really is nothing like theater when it comes to formative group experiences. There’s a strange familial bond that occurs between you and all the cast and crew and you’re all doing some ridiculously embarrassing things for hundreds of people, but for whatever reason, those embarrassing things become awesome things. You hope.
When I was in elementary school, I played Little Red Riding Hood in a community theater production in which all these fairy tale characters ended up together for some reason. The only problem was that I had cut off all of my hair before the show, and in the ‘90s in Suburbia, Ohio the costume mom certainly couldn’t let a small pre-pubescent girl who might pass for a boy go out there to play a female character, so I was given a brown, shoulder-length wig.
The costume mom and the choreographer should have talked, though, because community theater wigs and somersaults do not get along too well.
It’s all on camera somewhere, that moment when I went head over heels and my wig flew off and slid across the stage….
But the show must go on, so I smiled, retrieved my wig, tugged it back onto my head, and flashed a quick set of jazz hands before stepping back in line with the rest of the cast to finish the song. It was embarrassing for a moment… but then it was awesome.
Because while I was up there, and even in later years when I found my place with the set and lighting crews, I was with my weird, temporary-but-it-didn’t-feel-like-it family. And as long as they were singing with me, nothing could embarrass me.
I’m always so unbelievably proud of every single kid that I see up on stage during a low-budget, not always in tune, musical production. It’s a really hard thing to do, even when you’re “just” a chorus member or a stage hand. I was one of them and I remember how hard I worked just to be a wig-wearing Little Red Riding Hood with no lines, or a dead woman in Our Town (ironically with more lines than Little Red Riding Hood), or the one who had to cue the black out at the end of the show.
My drama club teacher always used to tell us that the person in charge of pulling the curtain is just as, if not more important than the lead, because if that curtain doesn’t open or close at the right time, the whole scene is ruined.
Each and every part carries the show. If your wig falls off, people notice. If the dead woman moves, the magic is gone. If the spotlight fails to follow the actor, your show is suddenly for radio.
And that’s why I give a standing ovation as soon as the curtain call starts, when they send the minor parts out to bow. They worked so hard just to be on that stage and to make you truly believe that you were in a small town in the ‘80s where dancing was outlawed by a crazy preacher, or in an old, mad scientist’s Transylvanian castle watching a man revive the dead, instead of sitting in a high school auditorium where just last week a recovering heroin addict probably told all the students to stay off drugs.
Today is April Fool’s Day, a day that a lot of people associate with trickery or being fooled. I, however, like to think of “the fool” or “the jester” on this day - the person who worked tirelessly to keep everyone else entertained, offering even just a few moments of escape from whatever was happening in their daily lives. They let themselves do ridiculously embarrassing and silly things just to see the world smile.
So here’s to the fools. May we all have even an ounce of their bravery.