This morning we parted ways with the communtiy of Geneseo, IL. Last Sunday we stopped in at the Mall of America to grab lunch with some of our Prairie Fire friends. We had a blast going through the Mirror Maze and just spending time with each other. After that, we headed to Illinois for our residency week.
Monday brought auditions. We had forty-two kids. After we finished casting, we started teaching the show. We knew that this was going to be a good group right off the bat because of their good attitude.
Tuesday's rehearsals went really well. The boy playing our Jack this week came in completely off book and blew us away. The other kids were pretty on top of thier game, as well. During a break with my group, one of the moms approached me. Her son was cast as our Enoch, he was maybe ten years old. She told me this was his first play, and he had never done anything like this before. She asked how he was doing, and I told her he was fine in rehearsals but was struggling with the flow of his lines. She told me he was very nervous, and she hoped he wouldn't freak out on stage. I assured her that as long as he practiced his lines at home, we would take care of the rest. The trick was to make sure he was having fun, and then the chances of him getting nervous would decrease. She thanked me for my time and for giving him the opportunity.
Wednesday we had our tech run. We had a high schooler running the tech for us, and he made our lives easy. Because tech ran smoothly, we had extra time to really clean up problem areas.
Thursday was our full run through without stopping and starting. There were some kids who struggled with lines, but this is the day where I play the "Momma Bird Game." I refuse to help them with any lines or choreography, I push them out of the nest and they either fly or they fall. BUT, "Why do we fall, sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up. (Alfred, Batman Begins)" After that run, we knew exactly who was struggling the most, and we drilled those spots over and over until we knew they were ready to move on. When we gave them notes, we stressed how it is okay to mess up! We told them that if they had been following in their script while we had been doing our scene, then they knew we had messed up. The trick is to keep going and don't show it. After this chat and working problem areas, we did our double-time-over-do-it-run-thru (a competition we do each week if the kids do well enough and we have time.) This run is always fun, because they get to be as loud as possible and exaggerate everything. In reality, this usually gets some of them to the level we've been trying to get them to all week when it comes to being big and loud. The kids always have a blast and so do we. This run was much better than the first one. It was great to have them end on such a good note.
Friday we had our final dress rehearsal, and they all did a great job. After a dinner break, we started getting them into costume and doing makeup. Once I finished with my groups, I started warmups while Joseph finished his kids makeup. It was during warmups that I realized I was missing my Jeb. I found him in the corner crying. I tried to get him to join us, but he refused. When I asked what was wrong, he told me he didn't want to do the show. I tried to calm him down with different approaches, but to no avail. Keep in mind, I'm still leading warmups, so I have to keep stopping to prompt the rest of the group. Eventually, I have to leave him be to finish the warmups. I'm now making contingency plans in my head for what we will do if he doesn't go on for the show. I'm the only one available to do his part, but there's no costume appropriate for that character that I'm going to be able to fit in. Then I start planning out how I'm going to combined differnt pieces of costumes to make something work. I do all this planning in my head while I finish warm-ups. Joseph finishes up with makeup just in time for me to tell the kids to get thier stuff together for pre-show positions. I have no time to explain what's happening to Joseph, so I tell him I'm dealing with a minor crisis. While he gets the kids lined up, I have the older sister to the boy get her dad while I get him out into the hall. Dad and I sit out there trying to assure him that he knows his part perfectly and we couldn't do the show without him. He ended up on stage. We managed to have everyone in position just in time to start. Every single kid did an amazing job. Our boy who played Enoch, ran off stage from his first scene smiling from ear to ear and loudly proclaiming to me, "I'm not scared anymore! That was so fun!" I had to shush him so the audience didn't hear, but I was so proud of him, and his smile was contagious.
On Saturday, we got to do it one more time. They did wonderful. The communtiy enjoyed it, and we received the normal, "It's amazing what you do!" My answer was the same as it always is, "The kids do it, we just show them how." There was one family who had come that didn't have a kid in the show, but the dad said, "I thought this was at least a three week program, until you did your opening speech. I can't believe you put such a high caliber of a show on in a week."
The last heart-warming moment to share for the week, is that we had the pleasure of working with a teenage girl who has down syndrome. She was such a blessing to us. She was simply amazing every day. All the kids looked out for her and adored her. I bring this up because so many times we look at someone with "disabilities" and we limit them by not giving them the opportunities that others have. Maybe we're scared that they'll fail, or we just don't have the patience to take the time and work with them. This girl has been doing Prairie Fire every year they've come to town, she takes dance lessons in town, does the high school shows, and I'm sure much more. She has a "will do" attitude, and has a mom that supports her and encourages her. Don't ever tell someone what they can or can't do!
And so, another week ends, just in time for a new one to begin. Check back next week to see what adventures Batesville, IN, brings us.