WARNING: The opinions expressed below are DEFINITELY those of The CoLab Theatre Company! Learn more at www.colabtheatre.org!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Children’s Theatre: The Scariest Place on Earth

Well folks, it's that time again. SHOW TIME. Take a look at this blog from CoLab veteran, Alyce Householter as she tackles her first children's show. See her play The Wicked Witch with finesse and ease as we open Don't Eat The Apples THIS SATURDAY, January 28 at Unity Somerville! Click for tickets. And enjoy the read.

   I walked into my first rehearsal wearing a long pink skirt, a black leotard, an off the shoulder t-shirt, and my hair pulled up. I was a ballerina. I was confident, secure, and ready for almost anything. But I wasn’t taking a ballet class, rehearsing Swan Lake, or even replicating a Flash Dance montage. I was preparing to play the Wicked Witch in Don’t Eat the Apples. To better understand the reasoning for my fierce ensemble, let me start from the beginning…
   Kids hate me. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true, and I don’t blame them. My experience with children under the age of 10 is virtually nonexistent. My few interactions with kids have been saying hi to my boss’s children and performing in musicals for kids when I was in high school.  So why the hell am I acting in a children’s show? Well….when I was asked to be part of the cast, I thought “Why not!” I hadn’t worked on a show in longer than I would like to admit, I knew I would love working with the CoLab Theatre Company again, and I would love playing the Wicked Witch! 
Most of the plays I have worked on in my career have been dramatic, dark, and usually had a “Mature Audience Only” warning attached. It would be nice to play a role where I wasn’t contemplating, “What vocal sounds best accompany a rape?” or “How do I make dying in a chair for 12 minutes interesting?” Don’t Eat the Apples sounded like the perfect opportunity to just have fun, meet some new people, and get a little crazy on stage.
Best of all, I would be able to do something I love without the stress of “What critiques am I going to get from the audience after the show?”  I know, as actors, we are not supposed to care about reviews and such; just focus on telling the story. But come on actors, we all care about what the audience is going to say at some point. Of course, we want them to love the show and get feedback from our peers and people whose opinions we trust. But then there is that whole other range of people. You know, the ones who see you after the show and say “You were amazing!” then turn around and tell their friend “God, that girl sucked”. Or when people you don’t even know come up to you and say, “The show was terrible, but you were good.” This really doesn’t help us people! (You know who you are.) So when I said “yes” to Don’t Eat the Apples, I thought, “My audience is kids. This is going to be easy.”
A few weeks later, at our first read-through for DETA, we were all asked to talk about our experience with children’s theatre. Someone began talking about how they liked it because of the audience’s instantaneous and honest reaction. Kids know what they like and aren’t afraid to ask for it. An actor knows immediately if their performance is good by simple immediate reaction. If you are a “good” character and they cheer for you, they love you. If you are an “evil” character and they hiss or boo you, they hate you; which in turn, secretly means, they love/hate you. That’s how you know you are successful, told the story, and you’ve done your job. That’s it!! There is no critiquing of the show. There is no kid out there thinking, “I don’t really believe that girl delved into her characters past” or “His stakes weren’t high enough”. Kids either care about you or they don’t.
I didn’t realize how much this idea actually scared me. The night before our first blocking rehearsal, I realized that I had barely looked over my script. After being so excited to accept being a part of this show, why had I not engulfed myself in it by now? I knew, secretly, I had been avoiding it. But why? Then it hit me. I…was….SCARED. I can’t believe it! Kids scare the crap out of me. They don’t like me, and they aren’t exactly #1 on my list either. I don’t know how to talk to them. WE DON’T KNOW HOW TO COMMUNICATE. What was I going to do!? So I spent that night racking my brain. How am I going to deal with this fear? How am I going to learn, in a couple weeks, how to make these kids like me? What is my first step? I began thinking about how I dealt with fear when I was a kid. I remember dressing up A LOT. Playing dress up with my sister and putting on unique outfits for the first day of school. Even when I had to wear a uniform to school, any time I had tests or class presentations, I would still find a way to put something crazy in my hair or wear really fun socks. I did it because that’s how I coped with fear as a kid. Something about dressing up and making myself unique was empowering, and I always seemed to be able face my fear.
So I knew exactly what I needed to do to face my DETA rehearsal: Dress Up Time (hence, my “ballerina inspired couture” in the introduction.) I doubt that any of the other actors even noticed my ensemble choice, but it wasn’t about that. It was about me and facing my fear. Walking into rehearsal, I felt confident; ready to have fun as the Wicked Witch, and knowing I could respond to the kids. I could communicate with them, because I knew what it was like to cheer for “good” and boo at “evil”. I was a kid at once, and there is a part inside me that will always be a kid. It was wonderful  to know that me and Kid-Alyce are still in touch. I’m not saying that children and I are going to start kickin' it on the weekends. And I’m certainly not going to be a nanny or pop out a baby of my own anytime soon. But there is definitely something to be said for the honesty of children and our inner child, and if you aren’t ready to face that, then you may not be ready to face the truth.
Hope everyone enjoys the show!

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