Saturday, May 11, 2013

Pretending together

Knee, shoulder, hip--I awoke with aches and pains this morning after sitting through two performances of our lower-grade musical yesterday, on the floor stage right. The kids pretty much knew what to do when they got onstage but many had trouble listening for when to do it. I hissed "go, go now" and "leave, leave, get off the stage." Supported success.

But with the awkwardness of scooting around on the floor also comes the fun of hanging out with kids while we all pretend something together. That's what I love about theater--the fact that we all somehow agree to pretend together. With a paper horizon hung on the wall behind the platform stage, with costumes pulled from closets at home or made from baseball caps, yarn, fleece and other stuff from the aisles at Hobby Lobby, we had a ranch onstage, a thunderstorm, a stampede, a couple of square dances, horses, longhorns, cowboys, and a prairie full of four-year-old prairie dogs with little feet kicking in the air.

A couple hundred adults went along with all of this. They weren't pulled in and transported to another time and place the way they would have been in a movie theatre. They were well aware of gym lights overhead, babies in the audience, and the many leaps of belief required of them to follow the story of "The Cowboy and the Black-Eyed Pea." But even so, you lay the logic of the story out there and people follow. They go along with all the "what ifs."

I staged my first play at the age of ten. It was a historical epic in four scenes (actually four pieces of notebook paper) with five characters and two romantic sub-plots. I rehearsed it with four friends, invited to be in the cast, and the single rehearsal didn't go all that well. It devolved into the two boys climbing on chairs and throwing bits of paper at each other. But we had a performance in front of the whole class one afternoon. It fell short of what I had visualized in my head, but adults were impressed. And I was marked as way more serious about practically everything than my classmates. I went on to direct a version of "Peter Pan" in sixth grade in lessons led by a student teacher. That met with more success probably because the crowd control issue went much better. And when Peter came to the rescue and jumped onto the piano bench to confront Captain Hook, it was truly thrilling.

At least I think so. Maybe I'm so wrapped up in believing in what I create that I don't notice that others are observers more than believers. It's possible. That would be a dangerous way to live real life--though plenty of people do that. But it's a great way to escape for a while.

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