The Suitor, The Rose, The Dove and a Thug.
Or as I once named them – Colin, Aria, Aria and Colin.
This weekend, my amazing little boy and beautiful little princess are making their second appearance on stage in less than a year – in the big Gateway Youth Production of Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Snow Queen’. It’s a lavish musical starring a mere two adults and over 40 children (ages from 7 into the teens) dominating all of the major roles.
Having been involved in some Gateway productions for the last several years, it’s great to see my children bitten by the same bug – even if I do subscribe to the school of parenting thought that says you should expose your children to the wonderfully diverse elements our world offers and then let them choose their own adventure. Be there to support. Field their questions. Always have a hug at the ready – or a pat on the back – or some heart-felt word of encouragement… but let them feel it out on their own and see what fits.
Let them dress themselves.
That’s what my parents did and it seems to have worked out all right for my sisters and I.
That said, I will admit seeing Colin and Aria in their second performance (after playing squirrels in last summer’s Willy Wonka) has made this doting Dad a proud Papa indeed.
After all, I caught a second wind myself, when in the Summer of 2008, I went to see Gateway’s production of The Sound of Music. All I knew was it was Community Theater meaning I had no frame of reference, other than having seen the film, Waiting for Guffman – which hilariously skewered local theater. So, I was half expecting singing dentists and aliens somehow inserted into the Von Trapp family. I sat there spellbound for 3 hours and saw it again later that same weekend. I loved every single second of it.
I learned right then and there that Gateway NEVER goes half-measure. Each production is always assembled with top-notch talent, expert craftsmanship and most importantly – a whole heaping helping of heart.
Colin & Aria have been especially stealthy throughout this production, somehow rehearsing in the apartment without letting me hear a whisper of a note. So when I reported for duty on Monday – the beginning of tech week – to run a spotlight, I had no clue what would unfold. And by report, I mean – I was strong armed into doing it. Talk about thuggery!!! I mean, come on!!! Running the spotlight puts me behind the thing at a decided disadvantage. I’m accustomed to being on the receiving end of these things. MY KINGDOM FOR TMZ COVERAGE!!! 😉
Having seen the show all week – including some minor bumps on that first Tech Night – I was amazed and yet not (given how talented this cast and crew are) that by Dress Rehearsal, they combined to mine real MAGIC. What they have pulled together is completely transporting. The music sticks with you. The tale haunts at times.
And hopefully, the experience will inspire a kid or two in the audience (or Hell – a Mom or Dad) to give this theater thing a try. To dream the little dream I had one warm August night, not so long ago.
Which brings me back to Colin and Aria and seeing them on stage as they take their first confident strides along this creative art path. Who knows where it leads – aside from blissful memory. Even one show makes its mark on you.
Colin seems to be having a ball. Early on he appears as a ‘Thug’ – my title, not the official character name. Well, what else would you call a character who interrupts a delightful dance of ice skaters singing sweetly of a frozen river by tossing snowballs in their face and breaking up the party. He and his gang make quick work of ’em and then they’re off. Oh, I know. You could call them… ‘BOYS’!!!
Later on, he brings down the house by embracing his inner Macauley Culkin – appearing as a ‘Suitor’ before a fair princess. It’s a great moment, one that cracks me up every time, made most sweet last night before an audience that roared.
Then there is Aria, who looks so comfortable out on stage night-after-night in her dual-role as a singing ‘Rose’ in the main character’s garden and later a beautiful ‘Dove’ in a stable. She’s on stage a lot and gets to deliver her first big lines – sent with heartfelt conviction – and sings in a number of songs. From my perch at the very back of the theater, her voice finds me each time, and I’m left wondering just when she got so confident – knowing it was always there – and looking ahead to what sweet dreams may come.
But that’s mere prelude to the big finale when both Colin and Aria join the entire talented cast on stage. It gets me every time.
The other night, during the second tech rehearsal, my wandering eye caught Colin on the outlying edge of the group where he’s been positioned. As the cast joined the force of their voices, I caught my son singing aloud right alongside them – making me so proud. Once upon a time, I actually entertained the notion that he might NEVER speak. Then, as he entered elementary school, I worried that his social-developmental delay may inhibit him from ever joining the crowd. And now – a few short years later – his voice rises high above, soaring all the way across a sea of seats, finding a prideful Dad who has been hit with sudden onset eye allergies.
Hey, I’m man enough to admit when a tear runs down my cheek. In fact, I sing it out loud. I’m proud of these kids.
I’m also wise enough to take stock of the whole experience – to enjoy every moment of this.
For them; the whole talented young cast.
And for me.
For it’s fleeting and each second deserves to be tattooed to memory. A memento that we, the audience, were blessedly humbled one winter’s eve by such young talent…
…and we’re all the better for it.