One of my favorite forms of fiction is interactive theatre for kids. Children are the best audiences; they give you instant feedback about how your play is doing. Trust me, if little kids don’t like your show, they’ll let you know right then and there by falling asleep or stuffing crayons into their mouths and screaming. If they like your show, they’ll sit still with mouths open and eyes wide, watching each actor’s every move.
When I was an undergraduate, I wrote for (and performed with, occasionally) a troupe of adults who put on plays for local children. We called ourselves Attic Players.
It remains one of my favorite college experiences, though the theatre wasn’t actually connected to my university. This was purely extracurricular. I learned a lot, and I had a wonderful time.
One of the shows I wrote is still available through Heuer Publishing for other schools and organizations to put on: my retelling of Margery Williams’ beloved story, “The Velveteen Rabbit.” This play continues to get several productions a year, and it makes me happy to think of other children getting to enjoy Williams’ wonderful tale.
That particular show is a very happy memory for me. I wrote it the semester I graduated from college and had to move back home. In fact, I wasn’t even going to be in town for the rehearsals or production. I emailed the script up to the troupe, and that was that.
It was the first time I’d written for Attic Players without being involved in the rest of the process, and I felt a little homesick for the theatre and the actors.
Every day I wondered how things were going. When the sun set outside, I felt as though I should be heading to the theatre to get to work. But they were four hours away, and, since I had already completed the script, I wasn’t really needed.
That December, the troupe called to tell me they would be starting the show, and they invited me to come watch. Thrilled and a little nervous, I got in my car and drove to Tallahassee. I had no idea how the rehearsals had gone. Would the audience enjoy it? Would there be mouths full of crayons?
I arrived and took my seat. The house (a large room upstairs from the theatre’s main stage) was packed with hyper children from several field trip groups. I held my breath. The lights above us dimmed, and the show began.
And there they were, my old colleagues playing the lines I’d written for the characters I’d described. I looked at the audience. Parents watched with nostalgic smiles. Kids sat still with wide eyes and open mouths.
The end came, and everyone cheered. I realized I was crying just a little bit.
Most likely this experience was a thousand times more magical for me than it was for anyone else. 🙂 For me it was a temporary return to a place I’d loved and had to leave. The story of the old toy that had to be thrown away suddenly meant something much more in the context of the situation. I was saying goodbye to my stage family. The sendoff they gave me was beautiful.
Now, when I receive a notice that another theatre has scheduled a run of “The Velveteen Rabbit,” I think of that day and how much respect I had for the members of that troupe. We’ve all moved on to a variety of paths, and I hope they’re doing well. 🙂