Well, the play is closed and whew, what a run – six shows in five days! Bravo to the KMS Masquers for putting on a marvelous production of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. As a parent of a Masquer I had the great good fortune to attend all three shows held this past weekend, and in between the repetitive moments I was reminded that theater experiences are essential to our children’s education.
An example from opening night – we all know from experience that in every situation there are always a few individuals who have to learn a thing the hard way. There were times in my youth when I was that individual; perhaps some of you can relate. Likewise, there were a few Masquers who did not learn their lines inside-and-out by opening night, and as a result there was a scene in the play that didn’t go so well on Friday. There was more than one awkward pause, some stammering, and a whispered line fed to a Masquer in need. It was obvious to the audience, and I’ll wager it was obvious to the actors in question, because by the next night they had their lines down pat and the awkward scene was vastly improved, thus improving the play as a whole. By Sunday’s matinee one of the actors was even attempting a Cockney accent.
There’s nothing like performing on stage for motivating someone to do their very best. And the confidence that comes from mastery can fuel the desire to reach even farther, sometimes even as far as the East End of London!
On Saturday night, my four-year-old nephew attended the play, his first ever, so it was A Very Big Deal. He was wide-eyed and excited, but much to his parents’ chagrin he had not yet mastered the art of the audience-whisper, and instead spoke in a normal voice throughout the performance. “Is this the end?” he worried aloud each time the curtain closed and the audience applauded. “No,” whispered my youngest, a whole year older than my nephew and therefore a young man of the world. “This is when they change the scenery.” I didn’t mind my nephew’s happy chatter, and I don’t think anyone around us minded, either; luckily we were seated among an understanding group of parents and grandparents, and besides, I can think of no better way to introduce a young child to the theater than to take him to his big cousin’s middle school debut. During the intermission I noticed my nephew was intensely engaged in deep conversation with his daddy about the finer points of the story so far – he wanted to make sure he understood. He didn’t talk as much after the intermission, and at the end of the show he clapped and clapped and asked his daddy if they could come back tomorrow for the matinee. As we stood up to leave, my father-in-law, who sat behind us that night, asked the boy, “When you get as big as your cousin are you going to be an actor in a play, too?” to which my nephew emphatically nodded his head, “Yes!”
There’s nothing like experiencing your first live theatrical performance for igniting a passion for great stories, and for sparking the dream that maybe someday it could be you up on that stage.
At Sunday’s matinee there was a wholly unexpected goof – near the end of the play, a backstager unfortunately got his or her cue wrong and opened the curtain wide when it should have stayed shut for a few more minutes (hey, these things happen!). While one scene played out at the front of the stage, the next scene was revealed, fully laid out complete with actors in their places. They were like deer in the headlights – but only for a moment. These young actors had the presence of mind to NOT LOOK at the scene playing out in front of them, and instead to remain posed and very still, like a scene in a 5th Avenue storefront window at Christmastime. And the actors in the current scene had the presence of mind to stay in character and ignore the curtain mix-up, proceeding with their lines and moving the show right along.
There’s nothing like being part of a theater production for learning about the importance of timing, flexibility, and grace under pressure.
There are so many more anecdotes I could share that reveal how theater is such a good teacher of empathy, of perseverance, of responsibility, of comprehension, of teamwork … the list goes on and on. We are fortunate to send our children to school in a district that knows there’s more to education than reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmatic, and offers its students the opportunity to reach for more. I extend my heartfelt thanks to the KMS teachers who make this opportunity possible – Mr. James Hagan, Mrs. Michelle DaSilva, and Mrs. Marlene Medeiros, and Ms. Kathleen Podraza - thank you for giving our children your extra time and effort and dedication. And many thanks to the KMS Masquers as well, for your hard work and commitment to the theater company, and for entertaining us once again with a terrific show!