Saturday, June 28, 2008

Taking Advantage

My son is in an acting company that performs several plays over the summer. The first set of performances is this week. Because the actors are between the ages of 8 and 18, they need some supervision during performances; hence the position of “backstage parent.” As far as I can tell, the job of backstage parent is to be a wet blanket. The mere presence of an adult seems to discourage spontaneous sword fights among the younger actors and behind-the-curtain make-out sessions among the older ones. Why am I telling you this? Well, I love being backstage parent, because I can read for hours! Almost no one ever volunteers for this job, so I get to do it all the time. The performances last for hours sometimes, and all I have to do it sit there with my book, looking up occasionally and frowning if it gets too noisy. Last night I read nearly all of The Guynd by Belinda Rathbone and I'm sure I'll finish it tonight. My only interruption was when an actor made his leg bleed by scratching his mosquito bites too hard and I had to find him some paper towels so he didn’t bleed on his costume. Otherwise it’s a reader’s paradise.


Anonymous said...

Sounds great to me. My 14-year-old son has really gotten into acting this last year and I've been very impressed with the energy so many adults put into these student productions. A lot of love goes into these plays, and a lot of work. And it's great camaraderie for the kids, too. I never saw my son work so hard as when (at age 13) he had to memorize hundreds of lines as Atticus Finch in "To Kill a Mockingbird." But he did it, and he was cool as a cuke in front of a packed middle-school theatre.

I also like the fact that most plays (if not musicals) are decent literature. A new dimension is added when someone who loves words can also embody them. I am forever fascinated by actors' abilities to do this -- to bring their interpretations to someone else's words without changing those words.

Is your son at a theatre connected to U.Wisc/Madison? I know from the bio of Marjorie K. Rawlings that her buddy Freddy Bickel got his start there. Later he changed his name to Fredric March.

Becky Holmes said...

I agree, acting is a great introduction to good literature, especially for my reluctant reader. The theater company is called the Young Shakespeare Players and they perform full length, uncut Shakespeare and G.B. Shaw plays all year long. The kids memorize hundreds of lines with complete understanding. Right now my son is performing as Brittanus, in Shaw's play Caesar and Cleopatra. Richard II is in rehearsal, and Henry IV Part I starts next week. In September they'll start The Tempest. It's wonderful.

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