I’ve been doing theatre productions for umpty-many years now. I’ve won awards, I’ve been applauded. It might surprise you that one of my favorite shows ever was a high school show.
Wifefish has directed shows on and off for our local high school for several years. They have no stage of their own, and so used our community theatre for a time. I, of course, helped out in any way I could. I often ran the technical side of her shows, taking care of lights and sound, and any other “honeydo” that she asked for.
When Wifefish was replaced by the school (a mistake for certain), I kept working the community theatre side of it, continuing to do tech. I loved the work, loved the kids. Quite a few of them, years later, are good friends. In the nature of theatre kids everywhere, some of them were outcasts…and I made sure to treat each one of them like the rock star they could be.
It came to pass that one year the students selected a very ambitious project indeed, mounting a production of the musical Aida. I looked forward to lighting it, knowing it would be a good challenge. I thought they’d bit off a bit more than maybe they could chew, but I knew they’d do a damn fine job of it anyway…there were some true stars in that class. (At least two of them by my last count are now acting professionally.)
They did me a great honor, those kids. They asked me if I would join them onstage as the villainous Zoser. I demurred, wanting to let a student get the role. They twisted my arm like some medieval torture gang. I gave in, perhaps too easily.
I had an absolute blast with the kids. I learned the lines and music as quickly as I could, learned a djembe solo that is featured in one number to play in the pit, and pounded out a light plot in no time flat. I even built a walking stick with a dagger (made of latex and foam) shaped as an Eye of Horus…I was possibly more excited than any two of the kids put together.
I even learned choreography. Here’s a little insight into Dangerboy: I can unabashedly claim to be awesome at a great many things. Dance is NOT one of these things. (I am also obligated by a promise to Wifefish to say that home improvement is an Achille’s whole freaking leg, too.) Choreography day was an absolute bitch, as we put together the intricate dance break Zoser leads in “Another Pyramid”, surrounded by his evil ministers.
During that choreo session I met one of my young ministers: a freshman who was, in a word, obnoxious. He cracked inappropriate jokes, had no focus, and was doing a good job at being annoying. I recognized a young man in need of attention and nurturing.
Each minister had a staff of their own, which at one point I thwacked with my Zoser stick (something Lady Gaga never wants to ride on). Down the line I went, four thwacks in a row, over and over as we rehearsed.
Well, at one point I missed. Thwack. Thwack. Thwack. Squish. We had to take a short break when I accidentally nutted the aforementioned freshman. It was the shot heard round his world, and he went from tenor to soprano for a moment or two. Once he recovered, we got back to work.
As it happened, the show was great, for a high school production. I was proud of it, and proud of the kids.
That annoying little freshman did several more shows, maturing quickly and gaining one hell of a work ethic. Final dress of another show a couple years later caught him with either stomach flu or food poisoning, and he refused to go home, pushing through it. He ruined at least one wastebasket, but he kicked that show through the uprights.
Just recently, he announced that he had auditioned for a production of Aida. He landed the role of Zoser, and told all and sundry that it was a role once played by the guy who got him into acting. Psst…that’s me. I am beaming with pride, especially when he said “It all started with a nutshot.”
We forget sometimes that people think of us as a hero, or at least an influence. It gives us a great deal of value, the way we can inspire each other. We have an effect on everyone we meet, actually, even if it is miniscule.
We can raise others up, and if we’re doing it right, we can push them higher than we reach, letting them grasp the stuff of stars in their young hands. If we’re really doing it right, we show off that bootprint adjacent to our nose as a badge of honor.
Perhaps, though, we can help them on their journey without a shot to the balls.