Theater Camp

I cried in front of an entire audience last Thursday.
It was the first round of camp plays, and I was already feeling sick to my stomach because children are oftentimes not much more than cute disease vectors. I was also feeling sick because I was stage managing, and one of the plays had so many elaborate scene changes that I was in charge of, my backstage notes looked like a Jackson Pollock painting.
Then one of the batons (the really frigging heavy bar that holds up backdrops) slipped off its track and got “stuck” in the down position, which would have ruined all the plays. The baton was holding up a fake basketball hoop, and I’m pretty sure there were no basketball hoops hovering from the sky in Scotland in the 1800s, NOR are they often centerpieces of a frog’s living room.
So before the play, I was pretty stressed out about all the potential disasters, and I suddenly realized that I had not been informed of the Alumni Number, a recent tradition where graduates can come back and sing and stall for time while I set up the scenery.
I had been told that it was some older alumni that I couldn’t remember, but I didn’t know if I needed to cue the pianist, open the curtain, hand him a mic, anything. Then I stepped into the twilight zone.
Calvin, my underaged partner-in-nerdery pulled me aside and started talking to me about life. Campers Kenny and Justin, who I don’t really know as well, joined him in some of the worst stalling I have ever seen in my life. I felt like I was being punk’d.
See, one of the most important lessons learned in camp is How to Tell When You Should Not Bother Someone. Throughout the 10 years that children are eligible to attend camp, important life lessons are drilled into their heads. For example, when the director is helpfully informing an entire group that their play is an embarrassment and he/she is glad that the children will be on stage instead of him/her, is that the time to sneak up behind the director and ask if it’s time to have a snack break yet? Or when the lovely stage manager is carrying a 1-ton papier-mache tree all by herself across the stage, should you then choose to ask her if she’s seen your pack of YuGiOh cards?
So you can see that when I’m freaking out about setting up for a play and knowing nothing about the Alumni Number, it was strange to have Calvin, Kenny, and Justin decide to talk to me about their spandex shorts or how many years I’ve been at camp.
Then my mom runs up to me and says that the director needs me on stage. By this time, I figured something was up, since I knew the director was ON stage, and they only call me on stage in my nightmares where something has gone wrong and it’s my fault and they need to humiliate me.
So I walk out in front of a full-house audience, looking a little confused, and suddenly the spotlight hits my brother, walking towards me. I hadn’t seen him since Christmas and figured I wasn’t going to see him again for a couple years, since I’m going to Japan and he’s going to Afghanistan a little after that.
He gets up to the stage, and I hear Nina, the camp’s musical genius, play the opening chords to the saddest song ever written, “Fathers and Sons” from the musical “Working.”
I was already crying when I saw him walking to the stage, and this just kept me going. The song has a large vocal range, but he did a great job and made a lot of other people cry.
It turns out that the whole camp was in on it. How they got 2nd graders to keep a secret from me, I’ll never know, but everyone had fun with their little surprise. I had needed to cry all day from stress, and here I was doing it in front of an audience of people, suddenly not thinking that the play was going to go so badly.
The play actually DID go well, even the quick-change one with the basketball hoops. The second play is this Friday and, like every year, it feels both like it flew by AND like this was the longest month of the year. And I’ll be glad when it’s over and miss it terribly for the next few months to come.

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