Here is what we are made of:
I have these two young men who are co-starring in this show. Both have been with KidsPlay since (at least) the third grade. Both are very talented, but they bring very different skill sets to the stage. One of them, time and time again, has been my 'go-to guy' for the lead role, the dashing young hero, the love interest, the star of the show. The other has been my 'go-to guy' for roles such as the clueless father, the king, the principal--in other words, the goofy sidekick, the 'funny guy' supporting role. Both have made the absolute most of their very different characters.
This play, their final show together on the KidsPlay stage, is different. They are paired together this time around, co-stars, equal billing, equal stage time. Both are leaders. Both are on stage for most of the show. Both, in the past few days leading up to performance, have show the strain of being the ones to carry this show forward. They have had their moments of stress, but both have bounced back the next rehearsal, ready for more.
A life in theatre is a life of criticism. A director is constantly telling you what to do, how to improve. In other words, "You're not good enough. You're still not good enough. You're okay now, but here's how to be even better." And if you're a kid actor, then you have everybody from your older sibling, to your co-actors, to your backstage dad, to the lighting guy, for crissake, telling you what you're doing wrong and how to fix it.
My one lead guy, the one more used to the spotlight, has shined in this show. I've reigned in his quirks, softened his vocals, and worked on making him more comedic than his previous 'straight man' roles have required. My other lead guy has worked on slowing down, enunciating, and how to be more of a 'straight man' than he's played before, and how change up his line delivery. I've worked with both of them on not upstaging each other, on being a team. And to be honest, it's been a challenge.
Last night, at our Preview Performance, all I had hoped for came to pass. An equally shared spotlight, continuity, smooth line delivery, flawless interaction. Their individual performances blended together seamlessly into one co-performance. Notes following the show, were full of praise for the one who had always played second-fiddle to the other on his spontaneous cleverness, the off-the-cuff bits he added, his clarity of voice and his consistency of character. Numerous moments of applause from the cast, sitting and listening to the compliments. Even his co-star jumped on the band wagon with praise for his stage partner.
But afterwards, the young man who had been the star of so many KidsPlay shows, the recipient of many, many good notes, pats on the back, congratulations for his performances, came up to me and asked, in earnest sincerity, "Is there anything I can do differently to bring my performance up to ________'s level?"
That is what we are made of here. Amazing attitudes. An amazing sense of team. The understanding that we are all in this together and that the improvement of one is the improvement of us all. We are made of this, and more:
1) Being able to take a beating with a duffle bag full of socks.
2) Spending the better part of the performance in handcuffs.
3) Running from stage right to stage left behind the theatre in the rain.
4) Changing costumes not once, not twice, but three times, and sometimes with in the span of just a couple minutes.
5) Having to handle a ventriloquist dummy and act like you're not totally creeped out.
6) Wearing a bald cap for the entirety of the show.
7) Kissing TWICE on stage ("Ew, boys." "Ew, girls.").
8) Dealing with the stuffy and crowded conditions backstage at the Ricks.
9) Having a 'butt' sewn into your costume, and a brassiere stuff with kleenexes because you're a 5th grade girl playing a 70-year-old woman.
10) Making mistakes--spilled water, a suitcase that won't open, a prop thrown off stage, costumes that won't stay on--that look like they were all part of the show.
All this, and still more. And we cannot WAIT to show the audience what we're made of.