So, a while back, The Kid--my baby!--was in his first every big-league theatrical production.
Okay, so it was my sister Leah's high school show, but still. (Leah is the teacher/director, not a student.) Being on a big stage in front of a lot of seats with people sitting in them is not something that my boy has experienced before. I think the closest he's gotten to performing for a crowd is the daycare Christmas parties, where the children would stand up as a group in front of their mommies and daddies in their normal daycare room and mumble their way through a three-song holiday medley.
Yes, it was as bad as it sounds. Of course, since that was my baby up there mumbling, it wasn't bad--it was a priceless piece of performance art (read: awful).
But this was different. Rather than 17 other little children singing different songs at the same time, this was 25 teenagers performing lines that they'd memorized. While following stage directions. And navigating costume changes.
Let's pause and take a moment to give thanks to my sister, Leah--a dedicated woman who manages to make directing plays look less like herding cats and more like the youth of today actually doing something productive and artistic with their time. How do I know? Not one of the cast members texted during the whole performance. Yes. I'm just as shocked as the next person.
Anyway, Leah decided to do The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, based on a movie with Loretta "Hot Lips" Swift back in 1983.
Yeah, that one.
Well, Leah needed shepherds and angels, and she didn't have enough to go around. So she wooed The Kid with big talk of fame, fortune, and ice cream after the show, and he jumped on board. There were two other children, aged 5 and 7, who were also going to be in the play, so my boy wasn't going to be all alone up there.
But here's the catch--we live almost 3 hours away from Leah's school, which is just a shade over two hours too long for commuting to practice. Leah told us to work on "Silent Night," pack a bath robe, and get to the play as soon as possible on opening night.
Yes. My kid made his stage debut cold. NO practice. NO planning. NO idea what the second verse of "Silent Night" was. NO clue what was going on.
And you know what? It wasn't awful. It bordered on cute--good, even.
Leah, as I may have mentioned, is a wonderful woman, and planned for this improv performance. The other two little kids had their parts down pat--all my boy had to do was stick with them. Leah also assigned The Kid a handler for each scene--a chorus member who was in charge of making sure my boy got where he needed to go.
He had an hour of prep time. Half of that time, he was learning stage direction while eating a hot dog. The highlights:
First Scene: The Kid is holding the little girl's hand. When he gets to where he's supposed to sit, she jerks him back into his seat and he lands with a plop. Five minutes later, everyone on stage is supposed to 'agree' and nod their heads 'yes.' The Kid misses the cue entirely, so the little girl reaches over and nods his head for him. Two minutes after that, everyone is supposed to freeze during a soliloquy. My boy sits up there and looks around, wondering what the heck everyone is doing until the lights go out.
Second Scene: All he has to do is walk onto stage, see the 'bad guy,' turn, and run the other way. He fails to do this--he's too busy watching the bad guy stuff someone in a locker--so his handler jerks him off so hard he drops his pretend books--which works perfectly for the scene.
Third Scene: The children cower in pretend fear from the bad guys at the edge of the stage. My boy looks out, sees me in the front row, and gives me the smallest, cutest little wave. It's the only time he broke the fourth wall all night.
Fourth Scene: He's in his bathrobe now, and since all the other shepherds have crooks or canes or whatever, they've clearly scrambled to get something he can hold. Ergo, he's walking around with a carpenter's "L" square. There's some running back and forth in this scene--and a lot more yanking and hauling that goes on.
Final Scene: All the other shepherds are so busy remembering where to go that they leave my boy behind. He wanders around the middle of the stage for a few moments until someone realizes he's lost and come gets him. His lips appear to be moving in time with the song.
End: He bows out of rhythm--but smiles the whole time.
The second night was much smoother. He managed to nod at the right time, although he forgot to freeze for the soliloquy. All was well until the bad guys came out, dressed as Wise Men. These Wise Men come out like secret service guys, defending the baby Jesus with imaginary guns and bazookas. Well, The Kid decided that this gun thing looked more fun than being a shepherd, so he started firing at the audience with his "L" square. The other little shepherd saw this, hooked the "L" square with his cane, and yanked my boy clean off the stage.
So, to sum up, Leah's cast and crew put on a heck of a fun show, The Kid will one day pay for my retirement will all of his movie paychecks, and everyone had a good time--especially my 95 1/2-year-old Gram, who giggled through the whole show--both nights.
Thanks to the Bayless Theater Company!