Wednesday, April 25, 2012

"You Had to Be There....": a futuristic narrative

The ancient woman leaned forward.  Her glasses, the lenses smeary with fingerprints, slid further down her nose and perched there, crookedly.  Spidery straggles of hair that failed to be caught up in the long, once red braid floated free.  The chair strained with her shifting weight, its wooden arms smooth with wear.  Her grandchildren had, at her bequest, attached rockers to the legs.  She had wanted a rocker, but would sit in no seat but the old maroon canvas chair.  Her lips moved, as if she were reciting some long ago creed, a prayer, a poem.  Her eyes fixed on the shelf to her right, cluttered with many objects, some familiar, some curious...all dusty.  A post-it note, its stickum having long ago worn off, was taped, and retaped to the front of the third shelf.  Curled up, and crusted with yellowing cellophane tape, the penciled words, "KidsPlay Props Hall of Fame" were barely legible.  Her watery blue eyes took in the words, and then seemed to move over each object, taking it in, processing the vision, the memory.


The children timidly moved forward.  To them, the shelf was an eye-candy treasure trove.  They knew that everything present had purpose, meaning, and a story behind it.  Anthony stood back, but pointed.  "What is that, up there on the top?"
The old woman leaned her head back, and squinted, looking over the top of her glasses.  "That?" she croaked, "that's a sword.  Your mama carried that on stage....  She was a sight to behold in the most expensive costume ever made...."

Lucy, ever the bravest of the three, approached the shelf and picked up something that must have once been some kind of food.  She grimaced and put it back down.  "Gross!" she said.  "Why do you have THAT?" 
"Young lady, I'll ask you to respect an old woman's memories.  That, if you must know, is one of Moo Goo Gai Pan's fortune cookies.  We sold them at the concession stand.  It still has a sticker on it, but you can't read it anymore."  She leaned back in the chair and smugly continued.  "And if you want to know more than that, you'll have to ask your mama!"

"What about me?  What about my dad?" asked Li'l J.  The old woman smiled.  "That whole shelf is full of stuff from YOUR dad's days on stage."  She was silent again, looking at the collection, measuring each memento in years and laughs.

"What about this?" asked Li'l J.  "I don't remember you ever talking about a space play."  He carefully picked up the dusty space craft.  "It's broken!" he exclaimed.  "It's only half here."  And then, his nose wrinkled, as something fell from it.  "Ew!  Why is there a bra hanging from it???"

The old woman face crinkled in yet another smile as she took the rocket from him, stuffed the undergarment back inside, and placed it back on the shelf.  "You had to be there, boy.  You had to be there."

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A New "Best"?

It's show week.  There have been many times I've felt 'the Joy of Living' this week and thought I should write, but there were things to do, as you all well know.

The show Annie Play Will Do, by Scott Haan, is a good one.  It's very good.  We had our Dress to Impress performance in front of the kids' teachers, a few parents, some special guests on Tuesday and they literally lit up the stage.

Throughout rehearsal, I've long touted Ariel Urban's performance.  Her nuance as an actress, her facial expressions, her ability to do what I've tried to get many an actor to do before her and that is switch rapidly from one emotion to another.  I mean, it's more than just thinking inside, "I'm mad.  Now I'm pleading.  Now I'm frantic.  Now terrified."  She actually does it--you can hear it in her voice, her delivery, see it in her body language.  I think her performance here is nothing short of brilliant.  

However, others, whom in rehearsal were merely good, have come alive in front of the audience.  I'm speaking of Aubree Cole and Adam Lee.  Aubree has been with KidsPlay since she danced with us in the second grade.  She has been strong, steady, dependable.  She bleeds KidsPlay red and black.  She's had some really great roles, the most notable up to now has been that of Gladys in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.  But in this show, as Rhonda/Annie, she has shown a bit of genius for comedy.  Yes, I directed her to do SOME of what she's doing on stage to bring Roy Hobbs to tears of laughter (while his own son is prancing around in a dress....), but she has taken my notes to a whole new level.  Her cavorting, her poses, her facial expressions, her delivery--omg, WHERE did this spotlight-hogging ham come from????  And she's hysterical.  

Adam Lee.  To quote Urban, dear lord.  I think I've created a monster.  This is, I think, his third show.  He had a modest part and unremarkable role in his first show.  In the second, he had a larger more central part.  He was an important part of the cast, but didn't really stand out.  In those shows, we worked on stuff like 'slow down', 'face the audience', 'enunciate'.  And now, here he is as Larry the Nerd (in Jesse Vetters' famous Maynard pants) and later as Buffalo 'Wikipedia' Bill sporting the taped nerd glasses as both characters and demanding that all eyes be on HIM.  He is a stitch in buckskin.  Hilarious.

Caymen LePere, in his last show with KidsPlay, has been yet another dependable bit-part player.  He of the quirky roles--Big Murray, Igor, the Butcher--now finds himself on stage with very few lines, but dressed as an orphan.  His long black hair french braided with pink bows and make-up on his face.  Look up 'good sport' in any phrase book and you'll see his photo.  His first laughs come slowly as people notice him, and then when he opens his mouth and answers his fellow orphan's question with his deep guy voice, the place simply erupts.  He puts to good use the lessons taught in this show, of face, timing, body language.  He makes the most of his stage time.

There are so many gems in this show, that I would be here writing for hours.  Rebekah McCartney, who wasn't even cast in the last show, is as nice, polite and quiet a girl as you could know.  Ramping her up to Rachel-Glee bossiness was a challenge.  We worked on it and worked on it and suddenly, she was there.  She plays opposite Jake Hobbs who also sat out the last show.  The entire production rests on the shoulders of this 7th grade girl and this 6th grade boy--both of whom had to hit the ground running to carry this show.  They are the new leadership of KidsPlay and I'm honored to get to work with them.

Maggie Brown, cast as the opposite gender (fun and funny for guys, but not so fun for girls, I think), demonstrating poise, timing, and the value of silence in her role as Elaine/Charlie Davenport.  She's as strong as actress as anyone on the stage.  Sarah Bolton as 'stuppid' Francine (and later Lily St. Regis) committing a death-penalty offense during the performance; Ian Cole, strong and fatherly as the principal; Savannah Coe, Hannah Holloway, Karter Petry in their supporting roles, their characters as individual as snowflakes.  

All the pieces are here.  A fantastically, wonderfully talented, diverse, strong group of kids.  KidsPlay.


And so.  The rumors begin.  They began backstage as whispers...and among the parents.  Is it?  Is it THAT good....?  The wind carries the whispering out and to the halls of the high schools where the honored royalty of KidsPlay shows past now strut their stuff on other stages.  IS it, is it, is it as good as that long-ago production of Altar Egos, long considered to be the high-water mark of KidsPlay performance?  Well, IS IT???  And that's the $5 question.  ;-)

The proof is on the stage.