Lessons from Play

Last week our kids were in a school play. When they initially put their names down last year, I groaned inwardly, all the while secretly hoping they would lose enthusiasm for the idea, and decide it wasn’t for them.

I could already guess what would be involved: after hours rehearsals, costume preparation (no, no, you cannot make me CRAFT), makeup on show days, parental attendance to the actual thing. For FOUR nights. And then the aftermath of exhausted kids who “are NOT tired” for a week. Probably resulting in an earlier than usual transfusion, for the one with the blood thing.

So possibly not my preference, truth be told. (Can you tell?)

I’d like to say that I’m a better Mum. That I’m the type that embraces everything that my children love, but I’m just not. I’m a bit shit, and I like best it when they like things that I like. Going to cafes, reading on the couch in my trakkies, rollerskating, sitting quietly on the beach looking at the waves and daydreaming. (Which is basically never. Of course the little weirdos don’t like any of those things.)

So, as they say, the show must go on, and the entity that is “The Primary School Musical” gathered its own momentum, and dragged me along with it. I purchased craft-like objects on Etsy and got a glue gun. I took kids to rehearsals on holidays. I bought a shade of foundation that I will shortly return to the Oompa Loompas. I learnt how to tease hair without screaming in the child’s face, “I am trying my best not to hurt you, but this must be done, the piece of paper says so, and I hate it too. Stupid play. Stupid costumes.” *

I personally grew up doing sport, and as such, kept a wide berth of the drama-nerds. You know who I mean. The kids who got called Butterfingers and Mamma’s Boy. The kids who couldn’t play softball or cricket, and always looked like they were someplace else when I signalled to the pitcher that it was ON and that we all needed to be a team. The kids who were in some nonsense thing called ‘the play’. The only play I was interested in was what was going on at home-plate. I didn’t get the drama kids. Nor they me.

I now had drama kids.

And believe me, there were dramas. Between hair and makeup and late nights and a very cold theatre, there were dramas. And that’s just for the adults. (Did I mention it went for FOUR NIGHTS?). But in the spirit of all things social media-y, I only posted the smiling pics of us all sharing beautiful times. I did not post my contorted maw, yelling at children to sit still whilst I brushed the knots out of stage-hair at 10pm. I did not post children crying from being accused of being tired and unreasonable, when they “clearly” were not. I did not post the stringy hot glue getting all over my hands and bench tops when I tried to glue the stupid felt leaves to the costume. I did not post the kid crying with nerves and excitement on opening night, saying they didn’t want to be in the play any more, and me saying “Don’t you dare drop a tear on your cheek, and ruin that make-up.”

No, I posted the best of. Because that is what we do.

The other thing we do, is we surrender to the process. The Primary School Musical has a way of drawing you in, and even if you struggle to stay away from this drama-nerdism, you are engulfed. And if you let yourself, you find out some things.

When you drop the kids to the Green Room, there is an energy that erases all of the previous turmoil. Children are bounding about like big-eyed puppies at the playground and doing the kid version of sniffing each others nether regions. They are full.

Before the show starts, the children do a warm-up song, and if you spy through the crack in the door, you can see them singing as if one, faces as beatific as when they are asleep. It can stop time, and take your breath away.

During the play, they support each other in ways you wouldn’t imagine. They gently help out those who have been overcome by nerves and misplaced lines. They laugh with each other, not at each other at the various foibles, realising that they are all together in this.

After the play, they gather together to smile and congratulate themselves and each other in a completely unselfconscious way. They get changed in the same room, the younger children admire the older ones as deity, and the older ones know the small ones by name, and say things like, “Good job Coco, see you tomorrow.” The small ones then walk a little taller.

On the final night, just before opening, the musical director gives his last address, and it’s similar to a coach on grand final day. He congratulates and thanks them for their endeavours so far, and spurs them on to achieve greatness at this finale. But even more, he reminds them of the beauty of art and song, and encourages them to play big. He tells them a secret that will stay with them forever: that if they give their all, then that effort will be reflected back to them in the faces of the audience. He points to his heart, and tells them that this is what they will touch.

And they do.

And it does.



*This may not be true. Only the walls (and my neighbours) will know for sure.


…From The Ashers