Friday, April 20, 2012


As Em left the house this morning, Baroy said to her, "Break a leg today."

Something about that--not "Have a great day at school," or "See you tonight"--sent sparks of joy through my soul. I can't exactly explain. But I sort of want to try.

Em is a freshman in high school, and started taking drama as an elective this year. And it has simply and totally electrified her. So when auditions for the first play of the year were announced, she tried out. And got called back. But didn't get a role.

"I just wanted to be part of it," she said to us that night, sadly.

"So ask how you can be," we both told her.

That next day, she went up to the head of the drama department and asked, "How can I help?" And he thanked her profusely, since she was one of only two kids who went from the director's "No, thanks" to "I'm sure there are other ways I can be useful."

And thus a star was born.

She worked that show, learning more about theater than she would have as a cast member. When they announced the spring theater schedule (there were two musicals and one play), she tried out for them, too, but still didn't get a role. And so she became the Assistant Director for "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown." And when that was finished? The head of the drama department asked her if she would pleasepleaseplease help out with the play, which was about to go up. He called her magnificent. She joked that she's never going to get a role in a play at the school because they're always going to want her on the crew. She may be right.

After those three almost-back-to-back theater experiences, we had a week off for spring break. There are two MORE plays going up; one of them starts tonight, the other in two weeks. So perhaps it shouldn't have surprised any of us to get a call from Em on the second day back to school, which was Wednesday: "Mr. B wants to know if I can stage manage the play going up this week," she said. "And he says they'll probably need me for the next one, too."

Tonight is opening night; she's been working on this play for just two days...but they've been long days, after school, into the late evening. When we realized that she has a soccer game that will interfere with her being there in time for the Saturday performance, she went to the director of the play and talked with him about how she would make sure that someone was ready to handle her jobs that day. Two days in, and she is IN CHARGE.

Remember, Em is 14 years old. A freshman. New to this large suburban LA school, which is a big pond by any definition. And yet, she has already become the go-to girl for the theater department's backstage needs.

Recently, the department held what were essentially auditions for the next-level drama classes; everyone who could fit it into their schedule for the next year would get in, but they were creating a new four-tier system. Instead of classes for sophomores, juniors, and seniors each, they are mixing the grades, creating small groups of 'players' based. I could brag about the fact that Em skipped a level and was placed higher than expected. But that's not what stood out for me when she told me about the auditions. What stood out was that, when she went up to do her monologue, the department head used her as an example to the group, asking her how many plays she'd tried out for ("all of them," she said), how many she'd gotten into ("uh...none") and how many she'd worked ("three" at that time). This, he told the class, though I can't quote him because I wasn't there, is what theater is about. This, he told the class, is the kind of commitment and passion he wants to see.

And from what I heard, she beamed. She had every right to. I sure did, hearing about it.

But that's not entirely why the "Break a leg" lit me up this morning. It's part, but not all. The other part is just how proud her father is of her. Remember, he's an actor and playwright. He loves theater. LOVES theater. Whereas everyone else in LA talks about their screenplays--and he has written more than one of those, for sure--he's all about his plays. He takes theater very seriously. He does not suffer theatrical fools gladly.

And so the fact that he practically glows with pride over his daughter, and that he shows it by treating her like any other professional in the theater, by talking with her about the shenanigans backstage and giving her advice on how to handle people who don't live up to her standards, by telling her to "break a leg" as she leaves the house in the morning, despite the fact that the play doesn't start until tonight and there's a whole day of school in between...Something about it. Something. She's so grown up. She's earned the respect and the accolades.

There's been a change in her, and it's been dramatic. She's a shining star, that girl.


Karyn said...

Em seems like an exceptional young woman with a maturity beyond her years. Since she's auditioned for several roles without success (yet), has the drama director offered her any advice on improving her performance? I guess I just hope she gets a chance to perform in addition to sharing her incredible talents backstage.

TC said...

Thanks, Karyn! He has told her a few things; one was just that, as a freshman, she's not going to get a lot of roles. But also that she still has a 'young' voice, so that if she really wants to do musicals, it might be worth a few voice lessons, just to learn how to mature it a little. We're working on that.

She's also getting to do some in-class acting; she's in a Shakespeare festival scene this weekend, for instance, and they will do a class performance in drama for the whole school, and she hopes she'll get a decent role for that. We'll see!

kristen spina said...

I love everything about this.

Anonymous said...

I am so happy for your Em. You don't post often, but I love hearing about your kids. I love that Em is a team player.

I also love that I stumbled on your pride minutes after I got an email saying my daughter had been cast in a summer production (3 years into trying for it). My daughter is only 11, but I know that some day she'd love to be a backstage person too, because she, like Em, loves being a part of it all, loves the productions themselves and how they come together. It's great to hear that there might be a role like that her to play eventually.

More than anything, I think perseverance plays a major role in our kids happiness, and it is fabulous to see evidence of it. Go Em!


PnP said...

So proud of her! She is a superstar!

Green said...

If I ever have kids, I'm giving them to you to raise so they'll turn out just like her.

TC said...

Awww, Green! You're too sweet.

Thanks, everyone. I'm very proud. It all ALMOST makes it possible to look into her messy room without screaming in anguish! ;-)

Anonymous said...

I haven't been able to leave comments on blogger, but I WILL try again.

Yay for Em! I am so not surprised, and am totally thrilled, that she's stellar.

Part of what strikes me is the wonderful step she's taken in her relationship with her father: to respected peer, even if still on a smaller scale (for now.....)

So so thrilling!


Swistle said...

What a great story! I think too many people want either the showy roles in life or nothing.

Roni said...

That's awesome! She's quite an inspiration.

kris (lower case) said...

everything ok??