Hey, Kid I Know…

13 Feb

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Dear Kid I’m Working With~

Look, I’m gonna play it straight with you: kids are not my favorite people.  They used to be, and then I grew out of them.

…I frankly no longer have the patience for your antics, fits, mess, lack of personal space, penchant for screaming at a pitch that only dogs should be able to hear, throwing fits in supermarkets, getting goo everywhere, inexhaustible energy; smart-ass attitude, annoying precociousness, and/or creepy attempts to act like you’re 35 when you’re actually 8.  What with all the digital world of internets and gaming and hashtagging also now added to the mix with this generation, I don’t even know how to communicate with you people anymore. 

See, kids have changed. They used to be introduced to things like real-world etiquette, discipline, and imagination. They used to have respect. They used to actively “play.” Like: games without plastic controllers. Outside.* And they used to be “kids.”

(* It’s this place with dirt and trees and no walls around it, that you— never mind…)

…So no, kids aren’t my bag.  Which means that every time I work on a show with you people, it becomes a huge “gird your loins” moment for me. 

…It’s having to watch and try to temper every single “sunofabitch” and “fuck” that naturally wants to erupt when one screws things up royally. (Which you’ve obviously seen: I do plenty.) It’s having to put you first in every moment in every scene that we usher you through.  It’s constantly checking in after every stage fight and altercation, terrified that some horrible bruise matching any one of our own, will end up having child protective services banging on our door and hauling us away in handcuffs.  Plus the frustration of you little bastards knowing every single damn line we keep fucking up, and not even breathing heavy after nine minutes thrashing around or dancing or whatever-ing, when the rest of us all want to collapse on the cold concrete and just die.

…None of which is counting the off-stage moments in rehearsal…with your little high-pitched voices constantly running a mile a minute, gluing yourselves to one another in giggling bunches, fighting with one another, squirming and making noise during emotional moments, your by-and-large total inability to focus on anything but cell phone screens, lighting fixtures, or dust floaties in the air…unwillingness to “play” or look “uncool,” and like a cat somehow know the exact wrong person to follow around in a room full of other people who would actually welcome and adore your attention.

I have done my damndest to stay away from environments like this, on purpose.  I’d rather bleed from my eyeballs than endure a production of “Matilda,” “Bye, Bye Birdie,” or “The Wizard of Oz.”  I’ve only ever done one children’s theatre show, which I still haven’t recovered from…and you literally could not pay me enough to do something like “Annie.”

…That being said, as cantankerous as I am about it, I gotta admit: some of you people aren’t the worst.

I’ve known a few.

…One singular “tween” with whom I would work in several shows across several seasons, proved my “all-kids-suck” rule was for-shit.  At least in her case.  SHE didn’t-suck so much, she became like a little sister, a best pal, who would rightly (we always said she would) go onto NY and LA and all round-the-world, spewing her talent all over the damn place.

…For reasons stemming 100% on a bucket list role, I voluntarily and happily walked right into this thing called, “Oliver!” once, with about three hundred of you people totally surrounding me.  And every single damn one of the yous were fucking amazing, outstanding, hardworking “artists”…I don’t give a shit how wide the age-range gap ran.

…And if you want to talk about “horror:” a cast-full of teenage girls for “Children’s Hour?!”  This hugely emotional roller coaster job to do, based completely off of a group of young women being able to sell a performance of lies and nasty intentions so well that is catapults and obliterates the lives of every adult sharing the stage with them.  And they fucking DID!  Every night! Like goddamn Rock Stars!

…Meanwhile, ”The Diary of Anne Frank” is completely ushered, bound, and delivered on the shoulders of a 13 year-old girl.  And in the almost unheard of casting choice, ours actually WAS that age.  Have you any idea the fucking weight of that role on even a young ADULT, let alone a “girl” who hasn’t even experienced an iota of real-life emotional equivalency to inform her of what she is about to put herself through every performance?  A freaking ball-buster of awesome, who worked like a damn draft-horse, pulling us along with her. Every. Single. Night.

…In other words: I’ve been lucky.  Like… supremely.  The pit-of-my-stomach ache of uncertainty of how in the hell we would be able to swing these shows, ended up being for nothing.  Because these kids were special…these kids grew from crops bearing hard work and determination and dedication and support and monster abilities.  I’ve felt surrounded by some kind of freak genetically altered talent-fruit, just being around them.  And by the end – with not a single exception – I have seen them not as kids at all…but as co-working artists. Because they were. And are. 

…Which brings me to you.

We aren’t as emotionally close in “real life” as I was with a lot of those other young people. And I admit, a huge giant-ass part of the difficulty in this piece revolves around the fact that you can not only NOT help ME out, you cannot even help YOURSELF. Such is the nature of the story, and this script. We all knew this going in, but that does not alleviate the weight that it brings (literally), in what is required to get this show up, on its feet, and run in complete, each performance.

…And what I have to lift, YOU have to provide.  All of it.  Dead-weight, in body, emotionally feeding me every frustration, beating, slapping, pinching, and slamming your body into mine…repeat, after repeat, after repeat. Drawing me into your mind and thought process with only facial cues and touch to tell me where you are and what is happening at any given moment. 

…And you cannot see.

…You cannot hear.

…You cannot speak.

…You cannot understand.

Kid, this entire show works exclusively on the fact that every single fucking audience member who walks through those doors will believe it.  Believe it so thoroughly and emotionally that what we have all just literally busted ourselves black and blue for MEANS something, SAYS something, and that by the final moment in our little pool of light, we will have earned and lived up to the job we’ve been entrusted with: telling the story of these two amazing women who did it all for real.

…That is so damn much to ask of you.

I know it.

…But you know what ELSE I know?

(…Like in that pit of my stomach where it usually sits all sour and undigested-feeling, every time I know that a kid is about to be involved in something super high-stakes and emotional…?)

I fucking know, without a doubt, you can…and WILL…do this.

…And when those lights fade out on Opening Night, everyone else is gonna have to stand behind me. Cuz I’LL be your number one fan…waiting to shake your hand.

Actor to actor.

Thanks for the work, partner.  You’re alright.

…For a kid.

~D

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