Reflections of a rookie stage-mom

Zachary was ten when he was cast in a local musical, Camelot, and thus began our family’s journey into the world of community theatre. Much to his credit, my son actually enjoyed four weeks of rehearsals, seven performances, and two rather uncomfortable fittings, all while wearing jazz shoes and tights.

He was one of only two kids in the show. The rest of the cast and crew consisted of talented grown-ups, dedicated to the idea of bringing musical theatre to the suburbs.

That’s right. These good folks introduced high art and culture where sports bars easily outnumber schools.

Zachary seemed as enthusiastic about applause and curtain calls as he was about scored runs and touchdowns – so we figured Camelot was just the beginning. After at least eight years in youth sports and one foray into theatre, I couldn’t help but notice all the ways in which the two disciplines were alike – and so very different.

Hockey moms and little league dads probably think they have the market cornered on intimidation. They’ve obviously never seen a stage mom in action. She can yell loud enough to be heard from the balcony without a microphone, during a solo aria no less, and will cause bodily harm to anyone who suggests “less is more.” Back off amateur, she can sing every line of Wicked. Shift-ball-change *that*.

Doesn’t matter if it’s the lead in Annie or a soccer goal, kids want to win. They just cry harder after losing the soccer goal.

All that leaping, pirouetting, and these guys still have time to go shopping afterwards? Dancers are definitely athletes. Most don’t have beer bellies and can totally kick your snarky ass, but not everyone looks like Baryshnikov. Overweight and out-of-shape players can still perform in the starting lineup and chorus line. Otherwise, how would you explain Nathan Lane?

Religious folks are everywhere. In youth sports, we hold hands and endure the spectacle of outdoor prayer. In the theatre, a Jesus shout-out goes in the program. Either way, The Lord is touched.

Boys constantly adjust themselves, whether they are standing in the outfield or on stage. Upside: At least when they’re on stage, spitting isn’t allowed.

Yes, I mentioned tights. Whether your son is a wrestler or dancer, he will probably have to wear something that seems appropriate now, but will be remembered very differently when he’s in college. If you don’t mind creating evidence to be used against you, take plenty of pictures.

At first, Zach was cast as The Page, which was fine because he still looked like a boy. Then they added “Ladybug” to his repertoire. The poor kid put on his costume, looked at my husband, and said, “This is bullshit, Dad.”

No one was willing to argue with him.

Makeup. Yeah. They frown on that in the dugout.

Mommy can follow along with the script. At least once during every football game, I clap when the other team scores. People stare. It’s embarrassing. This does not happen, though, when I’m in an air-conditioned room without sun in my eyes. The music stops and *everyone* claps. Kinda hard to mess that up.

Both sports and acting require a huge time commitment, but Camelot rehearsals and performances ran late into the night. That was something new. Zachary wasn’t accustomed to staying up past 9:30pm, even on weekends.

I had to get used to it, too.

During Friday and Saturday night performances, I’d look at my watch as we got closer to midnight, and whisper with horror, “I should be on my second glass of wine by now.”

Flashbacks are a drag, but there’s no way around them. I still wake in the middle of the night yelling either “Focus, boys. Focus!” or singing “What do the simple folks do?” I cannot decide which is worse.

Little Leagues are a great way of tolerating other cultures and points of view, like NASCAR fans and tobacco-chewing rednecks. But theatre is also a way of introducing your kids to completely foreign subcultures and learning to appreciate them, like drama queens and the fat chicks who love them.

Directors and coaches are not alike. You’ll never see a guy with a script scratching his balls or a guy with a bat drying his eyes because someone finally got the lines right. When the actor playing Lancelot couldn’t honor his commitment and took off like a big ass bird, Camelot’s director stepped in and blew us all away. I can’t imagine an overweight swimming coach with control issues getting into a Speedo, can you?

Theatre doesn’t cost nearly as much as shin guards and reconstructive surgery. Of course, I’ll never replace those brain cells I lost while searching under the stage for a script in order to recoup the $40 deposit. At least I never again have to ask about what goes on under there.

When your kids are well-rounded, everyone wins. Try not to favor one over the other, sports v. performing arts, because there is value to both. But I like all the positive people in theatre, even the drama queens. In over a month together, they never yelled at my son or made anyone run a mile in the heat.

That alone is worth applauding.