I am in the middle of a relapse. A sticky, ugly, anxious mood that refuses to quit. And the worst of it is— my timing couldn’t be more off. I’m starting rehearsals for one of my shows next week. (My theatre consulting goes from simple advice and designs all the way up to director. This year is director.) Which means that the relapse happened right as I was casting more than 60 children and young adults into a Singing-in-the-Rain-esque musical I wrote based on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.
A lot goes into casting (for those that are not theatre nerds.) Yes, you have to decide who would be best for the part, but with young people it’s more than that. You are making decisions that will either make their young life or totally destroy them. Sometimes I can look past that, see what the part requires, what kid has the character to accomplish it, the look to complete the cast, all that jazz…
This year… it was like I was playing fate. Every time I made a decision I imagined the repercussions in full technicolor glory. I saw the tears, the elation, and the anger. Oh man, did I see the anger. Casting is one of the most volatile parts of theater, by the way. And I don’t blame a kid of being mad at me. I blamed my casting directors as a kid, it’s part of the tradition really. (And a karmically necessary one for me with the grief I caused… I know that.)
The kids, I understand. It’s the parents who make it rough. And although this year I haven’t heard a peep of negative from parents. In fact it’s quite the opposite, we got tons of notes saying how thrilled their children were, how excited they are for this summer’s production… Still, I feel it… the stage mom rage, breathing down my neck.
The logical side of me knows that this is just a relapse and the heat I am feeling is a result of my anxiety disorder. And that if a parent or child is mad it’s just because of hurt feelings (and possibly a complete misunderstanding of their own ability. Everyone thinks they are a star. It’s human nature.)
Maybe it’s the fact that this is my first real directing gig since the birth of my son. I’ve pinch-hit and filled in for other directors, but not a full show. Not for a while. Certainly not a musical, with more than a dozen dance numbers and songs. I’ve got to teach twelve year olds how to tap dance and spin a cane, all while staying in my parents guest room, AND commuting the 500 miles to and from my home in central Illinois to my hometown in northern Illinois just so I can spend five minutes with my husband on the weekends. Oh, and did I mention there is a two year old boy being dragged back and forth as well? Who knows how he feels about this? (He’ll probably like the canes. Take out a few shins, you know, for fun.)
Maybe it’s the fact that I got so sick I landed myself in the hospital where they put me on a liquid diet, which oddly meant a ton of sherbet. Which meant a ton of sugar, which lead to the complete and total unhinging of my diet (and my jaw, with the amount of bread and potato chips I have eaten since. Including a french toast dinner I personally made and my son’s stolen cheese puffs… sigh…)
Maybe it’s the fact that my son’s autism diagnosis is finally sinking in. And what that means for us, him and me. Will I be good enough to help him the way he needs to be helped? Will I be strong enough to stand up to people who would deny him the resources he needs? Will my anxiety disorder let me forget about their opinions and unnecessary advice—when its never let me do that for myself?
Maybe it really was all that fucking sherbet, and bread, and potato chips… Maybe I am making much ado about nothing (which probably could be written on my tombstone, especially if I get sick like that again.)
Truth is, if I am going to get through this with any kind of sanity intact, the show and my son’s diagnosis, I’m going to have to get my diet and my anxiety under control.
Insert firm head nod— from myself, to myself.
It’s going to be harder than that…I know… but I already can feel the cool relief of decision and direction. Sixty kids relying on me, sixty-one if you count the Little Prince, which I always do… I can do it for them. For him.
Wait… since I have touted this as a humorous blog, and this was a probably a bit depressing… I thought I’d tell you the highlights of auditions—
- A comical, and endearing, rendition of La Vie En Rose that came with both leaping and twirling, and of course, roses.
- A serious monologue from a young man… with his fly unwittingly down. He will never know.
- The Little Prince becoming trapped in a prop butterfly net, while climbing through my mother’s costume closet. It didn’t bother him in the slightest, he just took it with him, ramming the handle into desks and shins like a clanging medal tail.
- My young Director apprentice being detained in the middle school office for her dramatic eye makeup, tattoos, and bull nose ring. Can’t trust those artsy college students, who knows what they are up to?!
And finally, in a mock punishment of a student who refused to do a singing audition, I threw a marker at him. He caught it with lighting reflexes. The kid plays piano, I should have known better. Still, I frowned and said, “You weren’t supposed to catch that…It was punitive.” “Would you like to try again?” he asked. I nodded threw another marker at him that thunked into his chest. Silence. “Would you like me to get those back for you?” he asked, both polite and smirking. “Yes,” I answered. “I hope you’ve learned your lesson.”
I think he did. The lesson is, Miss Holly is crazy.