Friday, January 9, 2009

Break a Leg, Scarlett (Again Again)

She knows you've read most of this. New content, at the end.

Scarlett was seven when Theater stole her from the Matron. 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 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 the Matron 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 the Matron mentioned to a neighbor that Scarlett was rehearsing a backyard play, the neighbor said: "We all know. These hills are alive with the sound of music, my dear." And it made life a little sweeter, she said.

Now, the Matron 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 The Matron'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 she 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.

Last winter, was Almost to Freedom at SteppingStone Theater. Scarlett played 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.

This was the first play in which the Matron watched her daughter and thought: Wow. A child of her blood could harmonize in front of hundreds? Thank goodness John witnessed the birth or she might not have believed it.

That 9-year old pro's next show was also with SteppingStone Theatre. Scarlett was a weasel in Anansi the Trickster Spider. By this point, the Matron was getting so, oh, nonchalant about the whole endeavor, that she forgot about pictures (and she had a whole month to get some).

Here's how Scarlett has spent her free time for the past two years: online looking for auditions.

After Anansi came the Third Annual Backyard Production. This time it was Peter Pan. Scarlett was a definite Tink, not a Tinkerbell. The cast included a sea of pirates, Indian maidens and mermaids. The grand finale was a highly highly choreographed blast of Elton John's Crocodile Rock. More than one parent wiped an eye in the Matronly backyard--once again stuffed full of people!

Wait! The Matron forgot the movie! During the month of July, leading up to the play was the small independent art film: Minka is Here. Here is the daughter in a movie.

If you go to film festivals, you might even see it someday. It's lovely.

Reader, are you tired yet? Because the Matron is. Between the actual Theatrical Event comes the down home theatrics AND the search for the next gig. Because when Scarlett doesn't have a show?

She's worried. But if she's down, she can just think of her favorite things and feel better. Like realizing a (short and adorable) lifelong dream and being an actual Von Trapp child on an actual stage in an actual play that is NOT in the backyard.

This time for The Sound of Music at the Phipps Center for the Arts! Scarlett was Marta. Here she is charming up the Julie Andrews type.

Sound of Music took this child away (and the Matron to Wisconsin!) nearly every night for six weeks this fall.

In December, Scarlett traded traipsing through the hills for the deaf blind shuffle. Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker! Now, if Sound of Music stole Scarlett and kept her busy, this production did not. Indeed, the first 2/3 of private Helen and Annie rehearsals were cancelled.

"We don't need them."

But wait! The Matronly psyche did! That's an awfully big role to be dropping stage time. Not that she knows one single thing about theatre. Still, Stage Mother fretted as rehearsals fell like the stock market.

Thursday night was the first preview. They got a standing ovation. Fridays 's preview? Hmmmm. Bump in the road. And that's from the pros, not Scarlett. When the Matron tucked in her daughter at midnight, that child said: "Our run was a stumble but opening night is the best work!"

Today is opening night. Scarlett, the past week you've come home with spectacular bruises, splinters, two inch gashes on your arms. The role is physical. You get doused with water. You have so much blocking to remember you said it's almost like being in two plays at once. But you still found time to play 'school' with your brother and tried to mention all of your friends, by name, in the program.

Your fellow actors give you high praise. You're a good team player.

Scarlett, your mother wishes you a HUGE life that serves others. This seems like a really good start. And even though you're busy with Art, you still sleep here. Your mother gets to pull the comforter up to your chin and kiss that cheek, night after night.

Break a leg, Scarlett.

Home Place Photo credit to Michal Daniel of Proofsheet Photograhy. Minka is here Ann Marsden and Ann Prim photo and movie credit, respectively. Sound of Music photographs are Mandsager Photography. The hands are Ann Marsden.

Junior High Fun

Last night, the Matron served as a Judge at the Junior High Science Fair. She read a dozen papers written by eighth graders. Ten would've earned high B's at her community college!!

Perhaps her favorite eighth grade reasoning moment was this analysis of the benefits/drawback of talk therapy versus medication for depression:

"The drawback to talk therapy is that it is very expensive. Talk therapy can be as much as $100 to $175 an hour and the hour is really only 50 minutes so there is that ten minute cost to consider. A pill works the whole hour."

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

She Could Use a Tad Less Excitement

Today at 3:32 pm -- a time when Bond should've been safely home, the Matron's cell phone burped the following text message:

"Hi mom. The police are here bc my bus got in a crash. Workers are checking to see who is hurt. Bye."

Can you see all the questions that message begs? How about: OMIGOD ARE YOU OK? which is exactly what the Matron wrote, right back.

He said:

"cant talk bc ambulance might need me."

Now the Matron is thoroughly beside herself. The ambulance might need me? Plus, she is receiving this news while in the midst of retrieving Rhett from school, standing in the throes of hundreds, texting.

She said: "Tell me where u r? Right now, tell me if u r hurt? Really!!!" Yup. She took the time and effort for all those exclamation points.

He said: "I'm okay. It's not a real ambulance I guess. I think it's the bus company."

When everyone finally arrived home -- the Matron, Rhett and Bond nearly an hour later than normal -- and on that bus --- he handed the Matron a crumpled piece of yellow paper that said this:


Your child was a passenger on a school bus involved in a traffic accident. Your child has been checked by an adult in charge at the scene of the accident and did not appear to be injured. We ask that your monitor your child's activities for possible injury that could have gone undetected.

What really happened? From the bus driver himself and Bond. . . .

Two school busses more or less gently brushed up together, knocking a mirror off of Bond's bus. Nary a child's hair was jostled. In fact, Bond reported that he was utterly unaware the bus had stopped moving until he saw flashing lights. He was reading. The crash happened at the whooping speed of 5 miles an hour, pulling out from a red light. The drivers laughed a bit about bad aim. But the busses DID pull over and the company sent Investigators, who queried each child and felt? For pulse. Well, nearly.

Think hyberpole (as in- other people's) stops here?

At diinner tonight, Bond took a long look at his (free range, local , family farm -- Bob Otis!) cheeseburger and said: "Sorry, Mom, but I can't eat this. My near brush with death has made me a bit queasy."

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

When She is an Old Woman, She Will Decidedly not be Wearing Purple

Over the past few weeks, the Matron has had the bewildering experience of encountering at least ONE MILLION people that she has not had the
  • pleasure
  • discomfort
  • aggravation
  • amusement/bemusement
of encountering in anywhere from 5 to 10 years. Most remarkable were the minions at Grandpa Don's funeral. The Matron is married to a man with 75 first cousins!!! The union of his parents--Irish Catholic immigrants and Polish Catholic immigrants--created a theological vortex of prodigious power.

Indeed, the Matron's own weddding was a champagne haze of "who is this?" and "isn't he married to what's-her-name?"

Of course, since John's parents are long divorced, only about half this crew crowded in to say good-bye to Grandpa Don. But half is enough to PANIC the Matron!! Why!??

This is her generation -- mid-forties, give or take five years. And they came, OLD!! Old, she screams, stomping on the size one jeans and padded bra!! Why bother!!?? What with those eye pouches, wrinkles and triple chins ahead!? It was ugly. Adults who were last seen lithe and unlined, suddenly had all kinds of unseeming Sag and Wrinkle.

Nothing like DEATH and the sight of 43 people visibly marching toward it, to make your day, huh? So the Matron was a little selfishly and completely inappropriately depressed the day of the funeral (remember, there were actual mourners with better values than the skin tautness gauge).

Just to insure that the Matron understands that she is both old and unpopular (multi-tasking, again!), last week she also ran into the Gold Standard for High School Success while seeing Grease with her daughter.

Digression! Yes, she took Zelda to the completely inappropriate touring production of Grease, where crotches are rocked and breasts cupped with abandon. Given that Z. recently performed as the lesbian sex-pot in Rent, well, things seemed just about right.

So there she is in the unwholesome lobby, replete in a $2. no-brand jacket, jeans and unwashed hair, rumbling through a purse for a Kleenex & breath mint because her nose is running and she can STILL smell the coffee on her tongue , but who stands before her like a goddess, perfectly coiffed and chic, but THE most popular girl in high school (not in the Twin Cities but far off in smalltown) whom the Matron has not seen in nearly a decade -- and the goddess was looking much more expensive, composed and less wrinkled than the Matron. And she did not need a breath mint.

After the pleasantries, the Matron marveled at her range, capable of looking middle-aged while feeling, oh, 15.

Today, the Matron was at LifeTime Fitness. She is weak. The ice is bad. So she joined for the month of January and guess what? There are other human beings there and sometimes they talk to you.

This is a very bad development.

You see, the Matron is long accustomed to slapping on her seven layers of clothing and running, completely alone. She can be naked in the shower and there is no 21 year old trying hard not to look at the shriveled acorns (but imagine marshmallow texture - that's important) masquerading as her breasts. Or worse -- chatting!

So today she's standing half-dressed at LifeTime, trying to put in contacts and she hears this:

"Mary? Mary Matron? Is that you?"

Matron (through one contact): "Uh. . yes!"

Elderly Woman: ""It's me! Lonnie Levin? Remember from parenting class?"

So the Matron embarked upon a long conversation, half-naked and in a hurry, with a woman who clearly had been in some kind of parenting class with her who clearly was also a COMPLETE STRANGER. For four or five minutes of small talk, she had absolutely no idea who this ancient woman was, and could only fixate on the fact that whoever she was, she looked pretty damn old to be in a parenting class with the Matron.

Then. . . finally, she remembered! The class, the woman. Her approximate age: exactly the Matron's.

So if you are an old friend of the Matron's and haven't seen her in a good long while, but have put on just the right amount of wrinkles, pounds and existential angst to mirror her own sad state?

It's okay if you don't stop and say hi . . . .

Monday, January 5, 2009

Outrage R Us

The Matron has a special relationship with this store. The kind of symbiotic love affair, in which they get (very little of) her money and she gets all kinds of designer fare!

Memorable purchases include a $7.49 Lucky leather purse (retail $200), a $3.99 Calvin Kline beaded skirt with the $295 price tag still on AND a faux fur the Matron paid $7.49 for but found on eBay for $400.

Love affair, indeed. Sigh.

But even more - the children! The Matron's offspring are well-heeled, thanks to this store. Both of the older sport brand new Obermyer ski jackets this year (total cost: $16) and their closests are awash in Brand Name, High End, Good Quality. Just as important, the Matron has no interest in bearing the karmic burden of creating her own personal land fill. She thinks recycling the daily stuff of life - from clothes to furniture to gifts--is just as important as putting those cans in the bin.

So imagine her complete, utter shock and outrage when she discovered that, starting February 10, children's used clothing cannot be resold unless it has been checked for lead and ph thalates. Do you know what a ptthalate is? Neither does she and you can bet the folks at ValuThrift don't know -- let alone know HOW TO CHECK FOR THEM - because they are now not accepting children's clothing as donation in order to phase that now dangerous and illegal item out of their store!!

Read about the whole mess, here. Please! The Matron is far too vain to send you to someone else's blog if her entire Universe weren't crumbling.

The thing that staggers her is the absolute environmental arrogance of the law. Throw out that clothing and buy new! Oh my Heavens. And if contemplating lead and ph thalates in clothing isn't the proverbial mountain out of the molehill (HELLO CONGRESS! Lead is not an issue in clothing! Hope you do better on the Bailout.), she's not sure what is.

America! The only country in the world, she will bet you, that will soon regulate against systematically recycling perfectly good, safe items otherwise headed for the landfill AND popping a sucker punch in the belly of her citizens who NEED to save a buck, all at the same time! Way to go.

Worse? The Matron's tender yearlings are accustomed to Ralph Lauren, Juicy Couture and Little Marc Jacobs, all on a song and dime. Well, they actually don't notice. But she does!

Where's that crack pipe!? Because she's losing her's. . . .

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Off to Edit 500 Posts

You must love her, now. Such devotion.

Bond is the boy who blazes the trail for his siblings. Zelda the girl. Rhett, the Matron's charmer and rake.

Thank you, everyone!