Sunday, February 22, 2009
I remember the very first time I went to see a live play. I was five. It was The Wizard of Oz. From the magical moment the house lights dimmed and the overture began, it was as if something inside me awakened and wanted to burst out. My eyes never left the stage, my ears drank every word uttered by those green little community theatre players, and my heart danced whenever they did. "Hooked" doesn't begin to describe my state of mind. After the play, the cast assembled in the lobby and endulged the audience with autographs and small talk. When the cute little fourteen-year-old girl playing Dorothy shook my hand, I thought I'd pass out. This shy little wallflower had suddenly found her muse. I wanted to be just like her.
Wednesday I was perusing the Chattanooga Theatre Center's website, intending to scan for audition notices, to check and see if they'd announced next year's season, etc. Instead I found myself examining the performance schedule for the youth theatre's current production of Go Dog, Go. In my head, I weighed the possible scenarios for my three-year-old's behavior, which ran the gamut from "polite young man" to "Ma'am, please follow us to the exit." Finally, I decided to risk it. After all, the book upon which the play is based has been one of his favorites since infancy. It was one of the first he was able to read by himself. He loves every silly illustration, and knows the whole book by heart.
Friday night Connor and I piled into the family van and drove downtown, just the two of us, for a bona fide date. He was fairly trembling with anticipation. For two days we had reviewed the rules of theatre etiquette and read and re-read the dog book, all in preparation. He had been so excited that afternoon, he hadn't been able to nap (this alone could have counted as a strike against a decent evening...). Inside the little black box performance space, the first four or five rows of seats weren't seats at all. They were carpet squares. Connor wasn't quite confident enough to nab a ringside rug, but chose a spot about five feet from the action. I settled down next to him and waited to gauge his reaction.
The house lights faded and the pianist began plinking out a tune reminiscent of the silent film era. Onto the stage strode a boy of about seventeen or eighteen, dressed in a clownish ensemble that included a waggly tail and a painter's hat adorned with floppy brown ears. He launched into a slapstick routine, juggling unsuccessfully and wobbling around on roller skates. I looked over at my son. He was laughing so hard he couldn't breathe. From that moment on, I barely glanced at the actors (sorry, guys.). My eyes were trained on my son, who I could tell was fairly falling in love. Connor hardly gave me a glance in return, although he occasionally scooted up close to my side, cupped his hand around my ear and whispered "this is just like in my book!" When it was all over, he begged to be allowed to go onto the stage and look around it. The cast hung around in the lobby to greet the audience, and Connor had his picture made with a few of them. He didn't want to leave. All the way home, he chattered about the play, detailing his favorite parts, favorite dogs, and insisting that I make him a hat with ears. He had already determined which color he wanted and which color his sister was going to wear. He planned to teach her her part before bed that night. We're already making plans to attend the next children's production.
The joy that filled my heart that night when I was five has swelled a hundred-fold.