Tag Archives: Theatre

Empty chairs…

This theatre season, my cast worked through enormous obstacles to perform Les Miserables.

And then .. on opening night?

Covid-19 starting shutting down all assembling of groups.

So 10 weeks of hard work.. and the kids were only allowed to perform for their families. The cast was heartbroken… but they wiped their tears… and performed an awe-inspiring opening night.

I could NOT have been more proud.

For me?

This experience is a little surreal…

Surreal in the sense that everything was so different from where we were 2 weeks ago. 2 weeks ago, I was reminding the kids to hang up their costumes and to clean up their own messes.. and to turn in tee shirt money.

And today… I am JUST praying that each of my cast members stays safe and healthy..

And alive…

But it is also surreal for me in the sense… that ALL of my life I have been studying Plagues and epidemics .. and pandemics. The Black Death.. the Spanish flu (that started in The US)… siege sicknesses, the viruses that wiped out the Natives, etc..

Not so much for the illnesses or the deaths… because death and suffering saddens me…

…but how those illnesses.. and the fear… and the chaos affected the people. And how those effects changed the course of history.

How poor people could suddenly own land…

…How our children still sing “Ring around the rosies”.. to ward off evil spirits…

And here we are… smack in the middle of what WILL BECOME history. Someday, kids will be studying about the Covid-19 pandemic of 2019.. and wonder how the “population coped with the terror” and the isolation..

I wonder if the history books will tell how we had a shortage of toilet paper… and no shortage of the conspiracy theories?

Or will the future history books say that the “population” learned from the history books of the past? Will the history books state how we all chose to obey isolation and quarantined ourselves at home?

Will the history books say how we banded together to give each other hope for a future?

Because we WILL have a future.

Even the worst plagues… the survivors dusted off their hats.. picked up the pieces of their lives.. and made a future for themselves.

And little by little?

We learned from them. From the survivors. We learned to wash our hands. We learned to quarantine ourselves if we have been exposed. We learned not to panic.. and not to take the virus to the next town in our panic.

We HAVE so much knowledge at our fingertips THANKS to the records and observations kept of those pandemics in history.

Because we have learned from our history? We find ourselves in quarantine BEFORE it gets too bad. We find ourselves bored and creating funny memes about isolation “cabin fever”.. while we wait for the virus to run it’s course.

But … we will ALSO find ourselves with a better future.

A future that MAY hold graduations later in the summer. A future with delayed vacations.. delayed celebrations ..

A future with strange new school routines.

A future that has changed us all in small ways…

For me? I’m praying that my future has our cast performing Les Miserables when the crisis is over.

And I’m praying that when we hear Marius sing about empty chairs and empty tables… that there are no empty chairs in our community..

I’m praying there are no empty chairs in our cast…

And I’m definitely praying that we did our part enough.. that I won’t have ANY empty chairs in my family.

But even if we never hear our cast sing a song rejoicing in “one day more”… ?

I’m happy that our nation and our schools gave them their best chance at being able to sing another day.

Stay safe everyone! And God be with you!


Thank you

This weekend we performed Grease at Maple Valley..

…and by “we”…  I REALLY mean..

“I wasn’t anywhere on stage at all.. nor did I play an instrument .. nor did I make sure a microphone was on.. nor did I make sure the lights were pointed at the right part of the stage. But I did HOLD back the curtain so it didn’t get caught in the Grease Lightning tires.”

So when everyone congratulated “ME” on a job well done? I feel like I’m a fraud for saying “thank you”.

You see?

I actually do a very small part of the magic you see on Maple Valley’s stage.

I have 2 other directors who help me. Miss Rachel directs the music .. but she doesn’t stop with her job description. She stays until the end and helps with blocking and characterization. She encourages these kids on and off the stage. I can’t imagine doing this job without her. Then our Mr. Rosin picks up the slack where we need it, helping kids learn music they miss in rehearsal and helping kids perfect their scenes near the end of production .. which frees me up to fix scene changes and costumes.

I had 2 student directors this season. Maddy and img_8288Emily. These 2 girls were workhorses. They kept us all organized and helped me come up with ideas and carry them out. I called them the “2 halves of my brain”.. and I appreciated all of their work. Emily took over the administrative side of my brain.. while still performing. And Maddy kept the backstage crew (and me) organized.

Our choreography was designed by a student, Kayli. She spent hours creating the choreo.. and hours teaching and reteaching the choreo. She spent extra time making sure it was a dance that would be fun for the kids to learn and perform. And it SHOWED!!

The performers!! Where do I start? This group of performers are talented, motivated .. and I encourage them to be responsible and take on leadership of their own roles.. and often give them other roles as well. I ask them to design their own costumes.. create characterization for the chorus roles.. and push them out of their comfort zone. And they OWN the stage and they Wow the audiences that come to see them.

The tech crew was led by a former graduate, Liam. I told them our needs and would guide them with levels.. and they organized everything else.

Our set crew volunteers on the weekends and late nights (and show weekend intermissions). Building and painting our set outside of rehearsal time. My poor husband guides a group of parents and students to create the set that we need.. often with poorly drawn sketches that I give him.. and the tight restrictions of a smaller school with a small door access. We had a dad design and build our Greased Lightning car!! And yet they do it with grace and help me keep the kids on a good budget. These sets give the performers a high class set on a small school budget.. and they don’t get enough credit.

The backstage crew often comes in at the end when the set is finally complete.. and has to learn the show (and its cues) in a short time. They fight the tight constraints of a small stage, change elaborate scenes in a small amount of time.. and patiently listen when I say we need to do it faster. These kids are in the back in black.. and are never in the spotlight. But they help the performers to shine .. The backstage crew is as important to me as any of the performers are!

The parent extraordinaires… so many of them. Coming in day after day to alter 30 prom dresses. Searching totes for the perfect costume for each performer. Moms and friends who go to every Goodwill in a 50 mile radius looking for pants in a very specific size and style.. or the prop I can’t seem to find. Moms who create 7 felt poodles for poodle skirts, because I think it would add a nice touch. Parents who come up with ways to print giant posters and fake magazine covers.. and others who contact the newspapers to get the show publicity. Moms and sisters who take pictures to capture the memories. Moms who take time from their busy schedules to make sure we have posters and tickets.. and a thriving concession stand… and programs that not only look good but have staples too. The ticket sellers, the potluck organizers, the bottle cap searchers, the snack providers, the clean up crew.. I could list every single thing these amazing people do.. but it would take forever.

Our orchestra pit are volunteers who take time out of their busy schedule to make our stage come alive with the magic of a live orchestra. This adds so much energy to our productions. They Bless us so much!!

And the makeup and hair crew.. making everyone look beautiful and era appropriate!!!

And me?

All I did was keep these groups organized and on a schedule. Encouraged them to keep their grades up.. and their chins up.

By the time production weekend comes along? They don’t need me at all. They own this stage.. they own this auditorium..

The beauty of Grease belongs to this whole group.. mostly Maple Valley students.. with some beautiful adults sprinkled in for support.

As for me? I’m in the back… holding back a curtain. My only job left? Being available for support if they need it.

So if you tell me “good job”…

…and I say “thank you”..

What I REALLY mean is.. “thank you on behalf of All of us directors, the talented actors, the backstage crew, the tech crew, the parents, the supporters… etc.” #theatrelife

.. our own luck..

Today is Friday the 13th .. one of the most superstitious days for some people…

As I sit here drinking my coffee, I started to wonder how many people are waiting for something bad to happen…

Not that I don’t believe in bad luck..

.. in the theater, we have a “tradition” where we have one performance where EVERY THING falls apart backstage. Costumes disappear.. buttons come off vests.. props break.. someone falls apart emotionally… the lemon/orange water springs a leak all over the floor…

.. every season it is the same..

.. we learned to expect that “bad luck” show..

.. and we laugh during the absurdity of it all…

So I can’t laugh at people who are superstitious.. and go into the “Friday the 13th’s” of this world.. prepared for the worst.

..in fact? Maybe it is foolish for me to go naively into the world .. ASSUMING that I will be able to handle any bad luck that comes my way.

Naively thinking that my Faith in God.. my faith in my family.. my faith in my friends.. and my faith in myself will get me through any luck that life throws at me..

But honestly?

The curve balls that life has thrown me aren’t things I ever would have expected.. let alone things that I could have prepared myself for..

yeah.. I’ve had an accident.. and a flat tire.. and some car issues.. and I even locked my keys in my car once..

.. but having a kid who has Autism?

I didn’t even know that was a possibility 19 years ago.

… having to have my son’s hips screwed back together?

I didn’t even know that was a thing.

.. having severe food intolerances be the cause of my kids health issues?

That only happened in movies.. right?

… a pack of raccoons wiping out my whole bird flock?

Ok.. I probably could have expected that one..

Recently my mom was in the hospital. It was pretty scary. The nurses needed to draw blood from her but they were finding it to be nearly impossible.

When another nurse came in to try to find a vein that would work..?

Well? Someone wished him luck..

Without looking up? He stated, “I make my own luck.”

And he was successful!!!

At the time, we were all simply grateful for his confidence.

But since that day?

Since that day, I have found that this simple statement is true.

We do make our own luck.

There is a saying out there..

Life isn’t about surviving the storm…

Life is about learning to dance in the rain..

I laughed when I saw it because this was how I approached raising a son with special needs…

… this was how I approached raising a very independent, strong willed daughter..

.. this is how I approach life…

I could let bad luck hold me back.. or I can focus on the good things that are still there..

Through everything? Through every tough situation I still have 2 beautiful children.. I have an amazing family… a Merciful God.. and some pretty spectacular friends..

… through everything we choose to laugh through the tears… sing through the frustrations .. and dance in the rain..

After all.. can it really be bad luck if we are all together? Or can we change those bad situations into good luck by finding the good around us? Can we change that bad luck to good luck simply by having Faith in ourselves and those around us?

So today?

Today I won’t worry about what bad luck this “Friday the 13th” has in store for me…

.. because I make my own luck…

…blank page…

img_1690So often, lately.. I have sat down to my computer to write.. and I simply stare at the blank page.

It’s not that I haven’t had a lot to say…

..and it’s not that I haven’t experienced enough to keep my mind racing…

…but sometimes? Sometimes even writers are too tired to write.

Spring time is Musical season in my house. As soon as the musical is chosen, my life is overtaken by set designs, character lists, auditions… and then rehearsals every day (it seems like), choreography, set build days on the weekends, painting the set, costume designs, costume runs, sewing costumes and searching for props…

.. and that doesn’t include encouraging the cast and crew to learn their lines and blocking.. and to be the best that they can be.

This year I added a full time job to my list of jobs. Even with the help of our amazing Music Director and all the parent volunteers? There were days that I worked from 8 am to 11:30 pm.

Yes.. I have been tired.

Recently someone asked me why I do it. If I get so tired? Then why keep my extra jobs?


Quite simply it is the kids.

Some of these kids come into the theatre with a lot to say.. a lot of experiences to talk about.. but they are staring at a blank page..

… not knowing how to express themselves..

I love to watch the musical come to life and to see the kids’ talent shine on our stage..

..but the MOST amazing thing?

The most amazing is watching these young people relax into themselves and learn to let themselves shine. They have the opportunity to help with building the set, working with lights, painting the set, designing costumes, organizing the backstage area.. some choose to step forward and take on a leadership role.. or help with choreography..

Endless opportunities..img_1501

.. and they rarely disappoint..

Ok.. ok… there is a week (ish) that we get a little worried (alright.. a LOT worried) that we will pull it together in time.. That we will have all the costumes and the props we need. That we will learn the sequence of lines in a tough scene… or that the choreography will be fluid…

.. but there is always that moment…

…the moment my veteran performer nails a tough character role… and blows us away..

… the moment you get chills from the emotion a student pours into their solo..

… the moment you forget the kids are acting because they are so genuinely in character…

.. and (of course) the moment the quietest person on your cast says their first line on stage with confidence …

… and they EXIT that stage with another page written in their own story. They exit with more confidence than they started.. more high fives… (too many bottlecaps.. more than likely).. hopefully a new skill… and a lot of memories.

I always remember the blank pages we started the season with.

Those blank pages?? They keep me going.. the writer in me is too curious to see what will be written next.. too hopeful of what will come … too amazed to look away…

Those blank pages will keep me coming back each season.