Friday, February 8, 2008

Break A Leg, Scarlett

Scarlett was seven when Theater stole her from me. This happened while she watched a performance of Esperanza Rising at the Children's Theater. She wept--mourned, wailed and railed-- about illegal immigration until well-past midnight. The play's topic became urgent and real. Art had hold.

A couple of months later, she and a 15-year old friend wrote, produced and directed a backyard production of Annie that involved 27 children, 100 audience members, a sound system, choreography, enormous painted backdrops and red hair dye (lasted six weeks).

You know who's Annie.

During the course of the week-long rehearsals, Scarlett requested email addresses for the children's families so she could better communicate with her cast. She is not yet eight.

When I tucked her into bed after the first rehearsal, she offered this: "Mom, why don't those orphans listen better? They're supposed to do what I say." A director is born. You can rework those letters just a bit to get dictator, you know.

John and I were in charge of food. Lots of it. Those orphans had no issues there.

Next, Scarlett auditioned for Little Bird at SteppingStone Theatre, St. Paul's children's theater. She stood on that big stage and belted out a song. She shivered and cowered on cue.

She didn't get in. But she went back for the very next audition with undiminished joy. And landed the role of Gladys Herdman in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. You know the book. This Official Theater Debut came four months after Annie.

Scarlett recognized that SteppingStone Theater was actually her new home and a much better place to be. Below, here she is, once again embodying poverty, in The Prince and the Pauper.



The cast of The Prince and the Pauper then became the cast of The Sound of Music for Scarlett's Second Annual Backyard Production. She was Gretel. And all those teenagers from SteppingStone traipsed to our house for more singing and dancing, under Scarlett's Command. She's eight now.

Our neighborhood is high on a bluff above the river. When I mentioned to a neighbor that Scarlett was rehearsing a backyard play she said: "We all know. These hills are alive with the sound of music, my dear." And it made life a little sweeter, she said.

I didn't feel like a real stage mother -you know, all claws and competition--till auditions at the Guthrie. This is the real deal, folks. Cash money and world stage, all that. Here is Mary's Very Fine Rule for auditioning at the Guthrie Theater: Do Not Talk To The Other Mothers. Then, you're fine. Here's Scarlett as Maisie McLaughlin, impoverished and dirty Irish waif in The Home Place.


Check out that playbill. Yes, that's her in the second picture, the only person in pony-tails. Scarlett rubbed shoulders with Fame. And what did the famous do in return? Showered her with candy. gifts and generosity of spirit. The child landed a Webkin, drawings, flowers, jewelry, ornaments, (did I mention candy?) books, boundless good will and adoration. She was also exposed to a staggering scale of swearing, drink and Late Night (uh, some of this from her very own Mama). The child supervisor said he tried to cover her ears at just the right moments.

Every night she stood on that stage and hundreds applauded. That was her favorite part, she reports.



Tonight is Opening Night for Almost to Freedom at SteppingStone Theater. Scarlett plays Mary-Kate, the plantation overseer's daughter. It's a stark, beautiful play about slavery. Kim Hines did the adaptation from the book by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson. If you don't know this book, it's worth trying.

Have a great night, my darling! Remember, you still sleep here. You're only nine, after all.



Home Place Photo credit to Michal Daniel of Proofsheet Photograhy

24 comments:

Heather said...

Wow I'm impressed. That's way cool.

SuburbanCorrespondent said...

That's amazing! What a gift...

Lisa Milton said...

What a firecracker - so devoted & focused for her age.

{Props to you, for letting her go. That's tough.}

Another Mary said...

Oh Mary, that last sentence put a lump in my throat - I remember sitting in the audience as a chaperon for Scarlett's (and my daughter's) class when we-all were on a field trip to see her in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and wiping away tears - she is so good! Looking forward to seeing this one.

hippyhappyhay said...

Amazing, again I stand in awe of you and your kids.

Minnesota Matron said...

Another Mary -- The matron will admit to teary eyes upon the post's close, herself. She is, at some level, on her own in a way even my older kid isn't. Bittersweet.

Anonymous said...

We are proud to say have seen Scarlett in all her glorious roles (except Annie). We can't wait to see her in her new role. We'll be there at the end of the run as we are traveling.

good Luck!
The Skulleys

Tootsie Farklepants said...

Awesome!!! Tell her I said break a leg!!

laurie said...

wow! your own baby ham! way cool.

my niece, who is now 11, has been dancing ballet for the last six years and takes it very seriously. she was clara in the nutcracker this past christmas, and very very proud.

liv said...

ohhh!!! who's the proud mom?? precious.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

The theater is wonderful; it sounds like she has the makings of a stage manager.

standing still said...

sniff sniff. the GUTHRIE. sigh ...

kate5kiwis said...

woot woot
go Scarlett, you are so fabulous X

Nikki said...

Wasn't it wonderful tonight? I retracted my previous statement of the rehearsal on my new post. In the end it really came together. I am not what I would call a prideful mom. I am not one to brag about my children, but I must say I am in awe of my daughter Alyssa who was the doll in the play you speak of. Isn't it wonderful to see the talent- and get a view into the future of these talented young girls. I hope you enjoyed the play tonight as much as I did.

I can't wait to see it again.

Wenderina said...

How wonderful. As a LOVER of theatre, but someone too terrified to ever step on a stage, I'm jealous of her passion and success. May the lights always shine on her and may your home always be where she sleeps safe and sound.

Mrs. G. said...

Go Scarlet! She has the perfect stage name. I love what a proud mama you are.

Minnesota Matron said...

Nikki: You're right! This was a magical play and the BEST I've ever seen at SteppingStone. Wow. Friends who live in the real world with me--go see this play. It's as good as it gets, including the big cousin Minneapolis Children's Theater.

bipolarlawyercook said...

Scaroett's a luck gal for having a great Mom, not a stage mom.

Angie said...

Way to go, Scarlett. She is absolutely adorable.

From a mom with a daughter cut from this same cloth - I can totally relate.

She too put on a full production, bossing around her friends, finding a place to have the play, printing tickets and making everyone sell at least 10, etc., etc. - she was also 8.

She is currently in rehearsals for Charlotte's Web at Festival Theater and is LOVING life.

Amy the Mom said...

The Herdmans are some of my all time favorite children's book characters.

After our email exchange yesterday, I can see that this talent runs in the family!

Melissa said...

Whew. I am so impressed. That is cool. And ambitious. And accomplished. And she's not even double digits yet. Wow.

Philip said...

Wow! That is really tremendous -- talent, but more important -- a love of craft at such a young age.

I'm 45 and STILL have know idea what I want to be when I grow up. (My earlier ventures into being a cowboy, firefighter, and systems analyst just didn't work out...)

But what's remarkable about Scarlett is that she not only adores acting, but understands its role as a powerful form of human expression and social commentary.

(Did I mention I once played Cockney #2 in a high school production of My Fair Lady? Still holding out hope that the theater is my thing too...)

Jocelyn said...

She
is
astonishing.

Cheri said...

Wow!!!