Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Backstage Mom

This past year, Kaela decided to leave the world of gymnastics and enter the world of theater.  We weren't sure how our "quiet Kaela" would do on stage, but we soon found out she transformed into a confident actress who can actually speak loudly!  Her first play was "Honk!" a musical which included speaking, singing, dancing, costume changes, and a lot of coordination.  Kaela's main part was Penny the Swan who helps Ugly (the ugly duckling) to realize he is indeed a swan.  She also played multiple other parts throughout the production.  The first time we saw her in action I almost didn't recognize her--she was totally confident, no stage fright whatsoever....and she was clearly in love with acting.  I had a lump in my throat at how much older she looked in stage makeup and grown-up costumes--and how she just oozed confidence. 

Various moms had been helping during dress rehearsals, and I was signed up for the actual performances.  But the first night I was backstage, Kaela kept trying to usher me out--she wanted another mom to do her hair, and one of the older girls to do her makeup, and she kept asking when I was going to go sit in the audience.  I finally asked her "Don't you need me to help you?"  Guess what the answer was?  "No mom, I'm fine. I know just what to do."  So I focused on one of the younger actresses while still using my mother-one-eye-technique to watch her in secret and observe her being independent, and confident, and mature, and.....grown-up. 

Sigh. My little girl doesn't need me. Make that a sniff, not just a sigh.

The dressing room lights went down, the stage lights went up, the music came on.....and out she went, smiling with that oozing confidence again.  As the performance went on--and she finally realized I wasn't going to do anything to screw up her routine!--she would sit on my lap backstage, and whisper to me which scene was coming next, and ask me if her hair looked alright before she went on.  Then the next night, she wanted me to do her hair and help with her costume and do her makeup.  And she asked if I could work backstage for the next performance also, and all of the upcoming performances too.

Little did Kaela know, I signed up for backstage help so I could directly observe--and shield from, if necessary--what my daughter was being exposed to in this new theatrical world.  Oftentimes, the green room games amongst the older teenagers would be "Truth or Dare" or "Would You Rather".  There were also pre-performance "Energy Circle" activities intended to get all the actors and actresses focused for the performance. There was one teenager who repeatedly made sure everyone knew he was an atheist.  As parents, we try to protect our children from unwanted influences--but at the same time we recognize that we can't be with them every minute.  So I used these encounters as conversation-starters and asked Kaela what she thought of the things some of the others participated in.  For the most part, she was completely naive and honestly had no idea of some of the intentions.  She also simply chose not to participate in most of them, and played card games or drawing games with some of the others. 

Also.....this was a co-ed dressing room--and there were a high amount of costume changes.  The girls had been asked to wear camisole undershirts and white leggings under their costumes, which remained in place during all their costume changes.  But I noticed two of the older teenage boys did not--and were often seen strutting in front of the mirrors in only their boxers, with no apparent reason in my opinion.  So I was faced with a moral decision as a parent--I could simply accept it as "part of the world of theater" or I could not.  Sure, it was harmless--they weren't trying to come on to any of the girls, and if anything they were trying to impress each other.  But I saw no reason for my 10 year old to be exposed to 17 year old boys in their underwear.  So I talked to the assistant director and asked if the boys could please do their full-costume changes in the bathroom, or in one of the nooks in the dark dressing room.  Thankfully, the director respected my request and changes were made the very next performance.  Some of the teenagers inadvertently commented backstage that they didn't see why everyone couldn't just dress in front of each's just theater after all.  But despite the murmuring and complaining, I felt convicted it was my job as a parent to manipulate my child's environment whenever it was possible.  To my knowledge, none of the kids--not even Kaela--knew I was the one who instigated the change.  For the rest of the performances, I made sure I was quietly steer her toward card games, to ensure appropriate costume changes, and I even taught the older kids new green room games that didn't involve Truth or Dare. 

Turned one liked Truth or Dare anyway.

Proverbs 4:20 & 23
My child, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words.
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

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