Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Kiddie Cattle Call

I have most of my summer plans lined up. I know on June 11 I'm going to see Phish at Toyota Park. I'm teaching an English class at the local community college two nights a week. I'm hoping to work in a late summer visit to Chicago to see a show. And I have also agreed to be production manager of the community theatre production of The Sound of Music.

I held a similar post last summer and was miserable, but I agreed to do it again for a couple different reasons but largely because the director, Tim, is a friend of mine with very similar sensibilities where putting on a show are concerned and he promised me a fun time.

This weekend, we held auditions for the show. Tim and I really had no idea what to expect in terms of turnout. Last summer's production of The Music Man featured a cast of about 60 people -- everyone who auditioned was pretty much cast. Tim decided to have auditions in two shifts -- a time for little kids to audition and then a time for adults. We figured we'd end up getting 20 or 30 kids, probably the same number of adults, and that things could be figured out from there.

Imagine our surprise, then, when Friday's audition process for kids began and the kids just started pouring in. By the end of Friday's auditions, we had over 80 children. A Saturday morning audition spot brought in another 25 kids. It was insanity.

For a lot of these kids, it was their first time ever auditioning. I spent a lot of time talking kids through their nerves. More than once, I had flashes of A Chorus Line as the kids anxiously waited their turn in the audition room to sing for Tim and Steve, our music director. There was excitement, terror, and so much more. I just kept thinking what an experience these kids were getting. And of course, there was some Mama Mel pride as two of my students came and weathered the whole process with smiles on their faces. (And got themselves call backs for Sunday afternoon.)

The thing that I found the most encouraging, though, is that there are over 100 kids in our community excited about theatre. A lot of the kids were pretty young, and I hope that this weekend's experience (and disappointment for all but about 7 of them) doesn't kill that excitement. A lot of parents told me they were here because the kids asked for it -- not because the parents were pushing them. One mom told be how stunned she was when her normally shy daughter asked if she could please audition for the show -- and even more stunned when she actually went through with it and sang and read and did all this stuff she never imagined her daughter being brave enough to do. Granted this experience inspired me to have dreams all weekend about armies of singing children descending upon me, but it also made me think that the future is pretty darn swell if our community has that many kids who are so inspired by acting.

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