By Jody Worsham
Monday, July 21, 2014
Putting Mama in Her Place
By Jody Worsham
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It is the final performance of “The Wizard of Oz”, the summer musical my children are performing in. I have waited forty-three years for two out of the eight children to show an interest in something I know something about, theatre. After all, I have a B.A., M.A., and thirty-nine years of experience designing, directing, choreographing, and lighting hundreds of productions. And I just happened to have directed “The Wizard of Oz” at least twice.
But it has been a long wait. The first child was interested in cooking, not my best subject. The second child was interested in hunting. I am a Bambi lover. The third child was happy fishing all day with worms. Not for me. Child number four was too hyper to stay interested in anything for very long. Child five was into horses and horse shows. That got pretty close to my skills in that I could sew some pretty fancy show clothes but horse shoes, horse feed, halters, and bits was not my area of expertise. The sixth child liked plants, the kind you have to dig in the dirt and plant, and water. I can grow ivy.
At age 9 and 13 children number seven and eight discovered theatre. I was in heaven. They were in hell. First there was the audition… in front of me. Which song? Could they carry a tune? Where can I find a voice coach?
“Mama. We are going to sing “Do You Want to Build a Snowman,” said the 13 year old who wouldn’t run the fifty yard dash last year in track because people would be looking at her.
“Everybody is going to sing that. You need to stand out, be noticed. The leads have already been cast I’m sure, so you will probably be in the chorus. Now you will need to wear something green…and maybe shorts for the Munchkin chorus. I could whip up something…”
“Mama. Snowman. T-shirts. Jeans.” came from the 9 year old.
I was relegated to listening to them rehearse “Snowman” for two weeks…straight. When I offered a suggestion, they just looked at each other. I practiced my poker face on the missed notes and held my breath while they reached for the next one.
We reported to the Lamp-Lite Community Theatre for the actual audition; we were three among seventy-five. They were auditioning for ALL parts. I rationalized that neither child was quite ready for a lead …just yet.
To my credit, I asked them if they wanted me to stay for the audition or step out in the lobby. One said “I don’t care;” the other said “Lobby!” No question as to who said what.
The 13 year old did a credible job with the song that thirty-four other children had just sung, and the music director acted interested. I know all this because I was peeking through the lobby curtains. What? You thought I wouldn’t look? The 9 year old took center stage (that’s my boy!) and preceded to do a taekwondo/ballet combo middle split. I am not sure what motivated this move but hey, you’ve got one shot. Go for it. Then he sang his version of “Snowman.”
Immediately after their audition, not being sure about the effect of the taekwondo/ballet split, I was volunteering for crews: costume, set, painting, sound, lights, program, and tickets, whatever. All crews were filled. I checked to see if the 13 year old had stuck a sign on my back: “70 year old Stage Mama! Beware!”
Both children were cast. I received a rehearsal schedule and the times to DROP the children off and PICK them up. I checked; again there was no sign on my back. All parents were discouraged from attending rehearsals.
At home I tried to convince the 9 year old that the lyrics were “Wake up you sleepy head, rub your eyes, get out of bed” but he insisted they were “Wake up you sleepy head before I kick you out of bed.” I tried to explain that a bust was a sculpture of a person’s head and important people would have their bust displayed in a Hall of Fame hence the reason for the lyrics “You’ll be a bust, be a bust in the Hall of Fame.” He sang “You’ll be a butt, be a butt, on the Wall of Shame.” Hopefully he will be drowned out by the other singers.
On opening night, the children were to arrive at the theatre in costume and make-up. No problem with make-up for the 9 year old but the 13 year old had other ideas.
“If you don’t mind, I want the professionals at the theatre to do my make-up and hair.”
(PROFESSIONALS?? The hair stylist is a dental hygienist by day. The make-up artist is a secretary! I made A+ in Advanced Make-up and my death mask is still on display at the university! PROFESSIONALS??? I’M the professional here.)
I held my tongue (with both hands) and said “Ok, but let me know if you need to me do something.”
“Actually we do need you to do something for us," they said.
Ah, at last. Here it is. Ok. What do they want me to do? Take notes? Look at the staging? Fix their costume? Offer suggestions for quick scene changes? Critique their movements? Evaluate their acting?“We want you to sit in the middle of the second row and clap real loud.”
That’s it? Four years of student loans, studying, cramming, thirty-nine years of teaching school, forty-three years of waiting for mini-actors, and Mama’s place is in the middle of the second row clapping?I clapped louder and longer than any parent there!
Being a Mama is the hardest job!
TIP: If you have to make your little one up as a clown, use Desitin Baby Ointment for white make-up. It won’t irritate the skin. Apply baby powder with a cotton ball to the Desitin to set the make-up. Use a Q-tip to remove any white where you want to add cheeks or a moustache.