I am currently doing a children’s theatre production while I perform in the evening big kids’ show. I love doing kids’ shows. A lot of that is because I want to pay it forward. I fell in love with theatre at a very early age, and I want to give a new generation the same opportunity. And part of it is that it’s just fun to be silly. I get to run around in circles and get paid. How does it get better than that?
In the current show, I play a third grade cheerleader who isn’t the brightest. My responses to math problems are things like “I like pie.” That sort of kid. I have a lot of fun with the part. I get to sit in my desk wrong, get confused about how backpacks are supposed to work… I get to be funny, the kids laugh, it’s great.
Then we had a special needs group in the audience. My role and character are in no way poking fun at special needs folks, but still, I was worried. What if those kids saw me being confused about how a desk was supposed to work and it hurt their feelings? But I’m an actor. An actor does not change their show as set by the director. Even if they are worried about breaking the hearts of the kids in the front row.
My mother was in the audience that day, sitting next to the special needs group. When we got to the bit where I can’t get my backpack on, one if the girls began to get really upset. But not like I was afraid she might have been.
She turned to her teacher and said, “She can’t get her backpack on. She needs help.”
“She’ll be okay,” the teacher assured the girl.
“But she needs help,” the girl said. “You have to go help her!”
“She can get it,” the teacher said.
And then I got my backpack on, and the girl cheered. In my poor character’s struggle to get her pack on her back instead of her front, the girl had seen herself. And she got to see me defeat the backpack and get it right. Sure, all I was really doing was spinning in a circle and being funny. But for a minute at least, I mattered to that girl. And isn’t that what theatre is all about?