Time to Remember
Being an actor is such an incredible honor. Seriously. We get to touch peoples lives, inspire others to follow in our footsteps, make them feel, make them think,expand their horizons, make them smile, and sometimes inspire them to be- to live their lives fully. That's some profound stuff there and may reek a skoche of hyperbole, but let me explain.
Currently, I am in a children's production of "The Velveteen Rabbit" at Emerald Coast Theatre company. It is aimed at younger audiences ( 4-10 years old) and is part of their Theatre for Young Audience's program. Now, as a performer, I've heard others sniff at the thought of doing children's theatre, but I think it is so rewarding and ...yes, challenging. Holding the attention of wide eyed tots for an hour???? Trust me, Not easy! But the looks in their eyes and the love they show as they leave the theatre-priceless! And it's not only in their eyes- it also shines brightly in the eyes of their parents. It leaves me with such a feeling of accomplishment and fills my heart to the brim. We do a good thing.
Believe it or not, this isn't about the kids . Today as I interacted with the audience, I saw an elderly couple sitting on the front row next to three little girls. I wondered if they were their grandparents, but mostly I was struck by the lady - probably in her seventies and in a wheelchair, she had a regal air to her and she was paying close attention to the show. I'll get back to her in a minute.
If you aren't familiar with the story, "Velveteen Rabbit" is about a little girl who gets a stuffed rabbit made of velveteen for her birthday. The other toys jockey for position in the playroom hierarchy , worrying that they will lose their masters love . I play the old horse who has seen it all (He's been there the master's whole life!) and knows all toys have a chance to become "real", courtesy of the Fairy.
Sweet story, brightly colored sets, cuddley toys - a recipe for a great children's show.
Today I learned it was something more.
After the show, we bunny hop out of the theatre and gather in front of a picture spot to greet the kids and their parents. Some are timid and wary of coming up to us as their parents coax them into a photo op , others run up to us and give us hugs. That's gold there, folks. Pure 24 karat gold. Nothing better. Or so I thought.
The last to make it to us was the wheelchair bound lady and her husband. I couldn't see if the little girls were trailing behind, but the lady came to each of us and thanked us all, heaping praise. As she was the last out, after we embraced hands, I went back to change. As I was leaving, I sat with one of my dear co-stars and we were chatting. The mother (Berrit)of the young girl who played Velveteen Rabbit came over and asked us if we had seen the lady on the wheelchair. I immediately thought how odd that we both noticed her but obviously she was someone special. Berrit told us that the lady had her picture taken with her daughter and then proceeded to relate how special the play was to her. I thought maybe it was because of her ?grandaughter's? reaction, but that wasn't the case. Berit told us she wasn't sure of the why the lady was in a wheelchair, but when she was going through physical therapy, her therapist gave her "Velveteen Rabbit" to read. The lady never really understood why....until now. This children's play, this trifle of a show, touched her. All the toys yearn for their master's love and the chance of becoming real. And this lovely regal lady got something from what we did today.
She said, "I am real."
THAT"S why her Doctor gave her the book. To remind her who she was , WHAT she was. That's what art does.
And that's why I do theatre.
Stephen LaDow is a local actor, blogger,singer, barista , and supporter of the arts. He lives on the West End of Panama City. Follow his blog at Unfiltered-ness.com.
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