Friday, February 18, 2011

And the Winner Is . . .

Here's the outstanding post about bullying, per the Matronly request.

Patty -- You win tickets to "Mean." Send me your mailing address at Easier to use this address. Yours truly will deliver the goods but the show closes a week from Sunday so we need to be quick.

And in amazing, untoward and somewhat strange turn of events, the Matron and her family have been asked to audition for "Minute to Win It." This is a strange reality television show. Let's just say 'strange' and 'reality television' belong together.

It turns out the casting director saw Mean, Scarlett's latest show, and asked all of the actors to audition. The Matron is about ready to throw herself over a bridge at the thought, but everyone else in the family is already on a plane to California.

People, this involves juggling things on your tongue. So much for brain power . . . .

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Break a Leg, Scarlett (Belated so Maybe that Leg is Long Broken)

Photo from The Match Girl's Gift (see way way at end of post)

Scarlett's current show is Mean at Youth Performance Company. Friends, the Matron is here to tell you that this intrepid theater is the best thing going for teens in the Twin Cities! The show addresses all things 'mean,' from online bullying to the jostling in the high school hallways and bathrooms. The actors? Let's just say Glee pales in comparison.

Here's the deal: yours truly has six tickets to Mean to give away. Write about bullying on your blog-- whether that's helping your children through something or a memory of your own, an experience that shaped you, etc. -- and I'll post all the links to your posts on Friday. Send me your links at and I'll pick a couple of strong stories and toss some tickets in your direction. The Matron reserves her right to select one or two winners that move her.

But this is an important topic, so even if you're in Japan (and you know who you are : -) or Australia, consider a post about bullying and meanness. I'll put everyone's links up on Friday.

And even though this show opened on Saturday and the Matron is late . . . break a leg, Scarlett! She's reverting to her regular "break a leg" post with new content (and an update on four shows) at the end.


She knows regular readers have seen most of this. New content, at the end. Beware if your child likes acting!

But back to the more fun part of being a Stage Mother.

Scarlett was seven when Theater stole her from the Matron. This happened while she watched a performance ofEsperanza 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.

Scarlett: "Mom, I want to be in theater. Can you get me a show?"

A couple of months later, she and a 15-year old friend wrote, produced and directed a backyard production ofAnnie 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.

Next came 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. Here you are, in the midst of the actual shuffle.

"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.

But all went well. The show opened to rave reviews.

For the entire run, Scarlett, you came home with spectacular bruises, splinters, two inch gashes on your arms. The role is physical. You were doused with water. You had 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 gave you high praise. You're a good team player. Even if Helen appears, well, fiesty.

After being the only child on the set for The Miracle Worker, the Mother Ship opened her arms to you and you happily climbed aboard, mid-March. The Matron doesn't think she's seen you since. Have you grown?

A little. Here you are, on a rehearsal break, with your latest set of best friends, the people who see you more than your family does.

Sometimes when she misses you, your mother tunes in as best she can. She watches this. That's pretty much the most direct contact she's had with you in a good long while, except for the driving.

But . . . being an icon is a once in a lifetime thrill. Right, Ramona?

Oh wait. You were just Helen Keller. Okay, you get to be an icon twice (three times, it turns out, but that's coming up next). You took the definition of trooper to new levels, Scarlett. Seventy-six shows in six weeks! Once you went on stage with a mouth stuffed with cotton and gauze, bleeding from an emergency tooth extraction and sick from the anesthesia. Your mother watched you cover once when your adult counterparts forgot their lines. She knew then you'd crossed one: you are a professional.

Over the summer, you reprised your role as Gladys in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. This is the annual backyard production that resulted in more wet parental eyes and about $600 in groceries. The closer your friends get to teenagers, the more they are eating. Can we stop this upward climb?

There are no pictures of the summer show. That's a whole other story.

Then, this fall you donned yet another adorable wig (actually two but th Matron hasn't yet signed the permissions form for the cute culy redhead wig) and stepped into a third iconic role:Annie!

Even when the skin on her neck hangs so loose and low it can cover small children (and possibly developing nations), your mother will never forget the morning you woke up after being offered that role. The theater had called late the night before, just as you had arrived home from the audition.

The next morning, your mother opened your door to find you stretching into the day, just emerging from the night's cocoon. You opened your eyes and whispered "I'm Annie" with such pure and uncomplicated joy that your mother nearly cried. If only we all could wake like that each day! I'm _____________ .

Just look at that joy.

Your mother was once again shocked and slightly disturbed that her lineage could actually sing. Really well. Amazing, actually. The autograph seeking crowd afterward was 40 minutes deep.

Annie was an emotional moment for the Mama, who relived that first backyard production and all that came in between. Her daughter was living the dream -- her own dream! Hey, that's what the Mama wants to be doing too (only this dream involves a computer and one lucky book publisher, no vocals).

Somewhere in the middle of Hooverville, Scarlett decided that she should do . . . drum roll . .. .

Dinner Theater.

Which she did, popping in as the scullery maid, Fanny, and Scrooge's sister (in one of those freaky childhood flashbacks) in a little holiday show at the Actor's Theater, Fezziwig's Feast.

You had a small part onstage but a big role in managing the younger children.

The Matron is glad that you are good with a comb. After Annie and Fezziwig's Feast, you had a blazing FOUR DAY vacation that included Christmas itself, and then started rehearsals forSister Kenny's Children at the History Theater. Yup, that's you in the braids.

The cast consisted of one very well known local adult actor, several teenagers from St. Paul'sPerforming Arts High School, and -- you. This experience only cemented your desire to attend this performing arts high school, just two years in the future.

High School? Scarlett? Two years? Hey -- fork over that Kleenex!

Fezzwig's was followed by a bit of a heartbreak: the second round The Miracle Worker was cancelled. There went your spring --but a big lesson in the up and downs of theater. Thank goodness there was a nice break for the first time in four years!

This summer, you were Amaryllis in The Music Man at Como Park Community Theatre. Your mother was once again amazed by your ability to harmonize (and had to remind herself that she was there at the birth and therefore, there is a bloodline). That show seemed almost like a continuation of the four month break, as rehearsals were entirely manageable.

Well, that all ended, didn't it, my dear?

More heartbreak: your fall show was also cancelled. This meant you had to scramble for auditions. Certain that you'd the usual round of rejection and perhaps one show, your parents allowed you to audition for THREE shows. You landed roles in all.

You were the unhappy and beleaguered Sarah-Kate in Afternoon of the Elves at Youth Performance Company. This theater has strict rules about age limitations -- 12 is the earliest one can possibly audition. My dear, you were counting the days. You probably don't remember, but you started begging to audition there when you were eight. Two days into your 12th year, you auditioned for the first time--and got a lead role. Your mother witnessed this and understood the meaning of joy, watching you. She bows down to teh people running this theater, which is without question the best place ever for teens, hands down.

Scarlett, last fall for the first time , you were in shows that overlapped. So while making audiences weep as Sarah Kate, you were also the young Clara in Isabella Allende's The House of Spirits at Mixed Blood Theatre , You went from performances to rehearsals and Merrick wondered where you were living. The van and a theater, said the mama.

During The House of Spirits, you started rehearsals for The Match Girl's Gift at the Centennial Showboat. Guess who was the Match Girl? Your mama wept every night at your near death. Hans Christian Anderson, for shame! Too much emotion for the hormonal and middle-aged.
And now, you're happily back at Youth Performance Company for Mean, perhaps a better version of Rent and Glee wrapped into one (not that she's biased). Once again, you're the busiest person in the household. The Matron watches in amazement as you complete all of your homework, get the straight A's and strut onstage several hours a day. Plus you still help your little brother with his homework and all things love. The Matron can barely look at the photos in the post without weeping, seeing how you've grown so she's savoring those moments when you cuddle with the little guy in the house.
When the Matron was pregnant with you, darling, she dreamed of a daughter who would be something special. Never, ever in a million years did she think she would get this lucky. And if tomorrow you're an apple seller too, you're going to be amazing at that. It's not what you're dong but the grace and intelligence you bring to everything in your life.
Your mother will always look at the night sky and blazing stars and feel grateful, knowing one bright light lives in her own household --and she gets to kiss that light's forehead every night and pull up the covers.

Home Place Photo credit to Michal Daniel of Proofsheet Photograhy. Miracle Worker and Minka is here Ann Marsden and Ann Prim photo and movie credit, respectively. Sound of Music photographs are Mandsager Photography. The Ramona photo was lifted from the StarTribune. Fezziwig Photos by Alan Weeks and Annie shots by George Clager. Top photo (Match Girl) is from Leonard-Gorril -- more photos in the link.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sweet Valentine

Last night, the Matron had a significant psychological meltdown, requiring tea, cookies, late night television and the the cathartic y bowl of salsa and a bag of chips. Friends, you know those nights.

Suffice it to say, she was up late.

National Public Radio (she's liberal that way, even in the pre-dawn hours) blasted her awake at 5 am. She stumbled out of bed to feed the 70 lb blood hound puppy who just turned one and is officially a teenager) and Satan's Familiar, who is rapidly indoctrinating the new dog into all activities evil and vomit-inducing.

After the dogs had their fill and outdoor release, for a few optimistic moments, the Matron sat on the couch and considered being ambulatory. Then reason prevailed and she decided to go back to bed since this was a day in which she wasn't required to be on campus.

Matron to John in the dark: "John? Are you awake?"

This is being volleyed over Merrick, as he comes into the "big bed" every night around 3 am.

John: "Huh? Uh, awake. That's me."

Matron: "Since you're getting up with He Who Cannot be Named (HWCBN) at 6 am, will you wake me up at 7?"

You see, yours truly didn't want turn on a light to set an alarm and rouse the sleeping seven year old who mistakenly thinks the parental bed is his own as soon as the clock hits 3 am. And she was tired.

John: "Okay . . . 7. Got it."

The Matron put her weary head on the pillow and thankfully fell asleep instead of making various mental 'to do' lists. Thanks, late night angst! And she woke up at . . . 8:30.

Frantic Matron to John, who was fresh out of the shower: "Why didn't you wake me up at 7!!"

John: "Was I supposed to?"

Matron: "Since when do I ever -- in the history of humanity -- sleep until 8:30 on a school and work day? Don't you remember our conversation at 5:10, 48 seconds this morning?"

John: "No. And for the record, if you wake me up with requests before 6 am, I will never, ever remember them. Let's just be clear about that. Between midnight and 6 am, you can tell me tales of stripping or wildlife in the backyard, and I will never know these things at 6:05 am. Are we good?"

Good. Sometimes knowing limits is the key to a health marriage. Happy 20 years, honey!