So it’s been almost two weeks of rehearsals and call times and tech and notes, and I’m not sure how I feel about this whole stage mom thing (see here for the first of my experiences).
Sure it’s fun seeing my youngest up on stage, mustering more confidence in his 11-year-old body than many people five times his age ever do. It’s was pretty cool to stop by the Norman Rockwell Museum on an assignment for my other site today, and have someone stop to tell me how natural he looked on stage with all those well-established actors in last night’s show … and he didn’t know my youngest was an actor, I never told him. “Thanks,” I told him, beaming like a proud Mama Bear, while thinking, “I didn’t tell anybody because I had no idea he was either.” He’s even received some of his first reviews, one of which called him “touching and loveable.”
Even having people tell Thing 3 to break a leg as we leave his sister’s basketball game is something new to us. We’re a sports family and we try to keep our legs in one piece. But it’s a form of good luck we’re getting used to hearing (and getting used to saying — sorry E for the unlucky good luck last week). I don’t worry about concussions or broken legs while Thing 3 is up on stage, unless he gets clocked with a flying prop, which is highly unlikely (I think).
But, this week I have felt a little like a lost teenager in a world full of professional actors, playwrights, directors and stage managers. Usually I walk into these places as a journalist. These same people are excited to see me, because I’m there to promote their play, find the inside stories and write about for thousands to see. After these stops by the theater I get to go home and create, sharing the secrets I have learned with my readers. But now … I’m pretty much invisible. Which anyone who knows me personally knows I’ve never done invisible very well. I’m just a mom with a talented kid who, as long as she gets her kid to rehearsals and call times on time, is doing a good job.
Oh, if they only knew me. The one who’s sitting around silently in the dimly lit theater, listening to their notes and critiques and newly written lines and feeling like a kid in a candy store being surrounded by all these creative, artistic beings. I’m rewriting dialog in my head. I’m taking mental notes about the music and the lighting. I even sat in the theater during the first preview wondering if I should let someone know about the distracting crackling in the speaker over my head. At the theater, I’m thrust into a creative fairyland — and what am I doing?
Well, currently I’m sitting backstage in the dark, pretty much invisible except for the glare of the computer screen that lights up my face. I watch from afar as the actors go through their individual pre-performance routines. Some go through their entire 10-minute play in front of me, reciting their lines at lightning speed in a voice barely audible. Others stretch — toe touches, back twisting from side to side — as if they’re preparing for some sports competition (now this I’m familiar with). One even sits down on the couch next to me and chats, and for a second I don’t feel so invisible, before she heads back out on stage, which is much better than the strange stares she gave me the other night, when the darkness made me look to her like some stalking 16-year-old sitting silently in the dark — watching. Creepy.
But being invisible has its perks. I know these plays inside and out. Like I know the silence right now will soon be followed by the lines “Exultation! Boundless Joy! Extreme feelings of uncontrollable joy!” I even know that while she’s saying those lines, P is raising her hands up and down over her head, and her knees are clapping together and the audience … yup, there it is … is laughing just as hard as I do EVERY TIME I watch her. I also know, from my black hole on the couch, that my son just screwed up his line (again), and the audience has no idea. It’s like a secret I want to share, but there’s no one to tell.
Being backstage with nothing to do, also allows me to get some much-needed Renaissance writing done and it provides me, with the oh-so-seldom downtime you just don’t get with three active kids.
But the other day, I decided I didn’t feel like being invisible anymore. I had had enough downtime. I was tired of being silent. I needed to be social with these people whose work and creativity I was admiring so much. So, bracing myself, I crept behind the black curtain and into the women’s dressing room. And what did I find?
Well first of all … there was light! That was nice. And in the dressing room there was an actor, whom I know very well from my previous job as a local arts and culture journalist, and she invited me in with open arms. She was channeling some character that was a cross between the Southern character she plays in one of 10-minute play and a mother cooing over her newborn. It was a fun side of L to see. We sat in the room and joked and chatted and then as quickly as the conversation began, it ended, as L began to prepare for her next role as an airline stewardess. Not wanting to get in the way, I only stayed in the room for a few more minutes, but in following evenings I was drawn to the light, and spent more time in the lit kitchenette reading or browsing Facebook on my iPhone. Occasionally I visited with an actor or two in between scenes and sated my appetite for social interaction I had been missing through this entire stage mom process.
And then, for the rest of the performances that week I went back to my seat in the dark and hung out with my son. I helped prep him and go through a few difficult lines, and psyche him up for his upcoming performance. We high-fived, we giggled in the dark and we played some word games on his iPad, because after all, for a couple more weeks, I am a stage mom, and my role is to sit back and support my little actor.
As Thing 3 headed out to take his place in the theater, I became invisible again. Alone in the dark I listened as Thing 3 and his fictitious dad began, smiling, and reciting lines in my head at the same time the actors on the stage said them out loud. And when it was all over, I sat quietly in the dark before Thing 3 returned backstage, reveling in the fact that I knew he had just nailed his performance. And this time it wasn’t a secret I could keep — and neither could anyone else.