Thursday, April 24, 2008

Be Like a Munchkin

By Nichole Giles

For the last four months, my kids—along with more than 60 others—have been working toward a goal. They’re cast in a children’s theater production of The Wizard of Oz. Tuesday, they opened their first performance to a house full of first through third graders who laughed, gasped and cheered until the final curtain call.

The kids were exhilarated and amazed at their accomplishment, and the adults…well, they were impressed. It was my privilege to be the “green room mom” during that first performance, which means I was back stage in the green room helping with makeup, hair, costume issues, and anything else that came up.

If you’ve never been backstage during a performance before, let me enlighten you. As the cast prepares to go onstage, the energy level practically hums through the air. People dance through the halls, singing and laughing, and just before the curtain goes up, the entire cast forms a circle, holding hands with their heads bowed while they pray. Just being there is an amazing, moving experience.

But that’s behind the scenes. The performance of these kids is amazing. They range in age from six to eighteen, and the directors are talented enough to bring them all together to produce one working machine. During their months of practice, they’ve learned responsibility, endurance, and self-confidence. They’ve learned to treat each other well, despite disagreements and differences, and they’ve learned that it isn’t always fun to stay up really late rehearsing and then get up very early to perform. Sometimes, acting is tough.

As a case in point, the girl playing the part of Dorothy happens to be eight-years-old. She has worked for several hours every day learning lines and dances. Practicing. Yesterday, she came down with a terrible cold that has affected her singing voice. Rather than crying and refusing to sing, that little girl drank tons of water, carried a pen and paper around, refusing to talk except when she went onstage, and did her very best to belt out her songs—even though it hurt.

Why do they do it?

Because they love it. There is no other explanation. If these kids didn’t love what they do with their whole hearts, they would never commit to give up all the Saturdays and afternoons in April—including spring break—to rehearse. They wouldn’t be willing to wake up at 6:00 am—two days in a row—to have their makeup and hair done so they can make an 8:30 performance call time, knowing they might be at the theater until as late as 10:00 pm.

Writing is a form of creativity that is put on paper rather than performed on a stage, but the same rules apply. Why do we do it? Because we love it. Why do we sacrifice our time, our talents, and sometimes our sanity, going to workshops and reading books and writing things no one will ever see? For the love of it.

Those kids may have walked into this program with no idea of what they were getting into, but they came out with performance experience and a new understanding of life.

Often writers jump into a project with no idea of what they are getting into, but they come out with writing experience and a new understanding of life, the universe, and everything else.

Today I’m taking a lesson from a bunch of kids. Despite the many, many challenges that have occurred over the months, these people were able to pull this play together, and their performance is incredible. They didn’t give up when the going got tough, or when their friends went on vacation and they had to rehearse. They didn’t give up when they had to take dinner with them in a paper sack and do their homework backstage. They kept going and in the end, they are rewarded. They are amazing.

I only hope I can be so dedicated and produce as high quality a result as my little munchkins in the play.


Rebecca Talley said...

My kids have been performing in "Willy Wonka" so I can relate, though I haven't been backstage with them. My kids are usually involved in 3 plays during this time of year--very busy, but they love, love, love it. I just try to keep up without falling over with exhaustion (stinks to be old).

Nichole Giles said...

Yep, Rebecca! That's about where I am today. Fighting to keep up. I can't even imagine how exhausted my kids are!

Where is Willy Wonka playing? Tell your kids I said "Break-a-leg"!