Punky started rehearsals last night for the next show she was cast in, ‘Meet Me in St. Louis’. This is an adult community theatre show and she is one of only three children in the show. To tell you the truth I’m a bit surprised she was cast. She is in the ‘ensemble’ or chorus, if you will. She is the only child in the ensemble. The other two children were cast as the younger sisters Agnes and Tootie (for those familiar with the musical). It makes total sense that the other two girls are there, they are fulfilling roles that are *for* children but Punky is not.
Every other person in the cast and ensemble is an adult. I am not sure what this means, if anything. Perhaps the Director really wanted her in the show but by not casting her in a speaking role, put her in the ensemble? It’s just odd to me. Punky isn’t one of those 11 year olds who look 14. She’s short (much to her disdain) a fact that I blame on her father since no one in his (Asian mixed) family is taller than 5”10’ – and that’s a male. She also still carries the look of a young girl, not a teen. She has chunky cheeks. She has a stocky frame, that while is clearly athletic, is not long and lanky. I say all that to demonstrate that when you look at her she looks like a kid! Yet, there we were last night with her standing with all the other ensemble members, Punky the one tiny child in a large group of adults. I had my moments of doubt.
I wasn’t permitted to remain at rehearsals after opening announcements and schedules were passed out and so I left her in a room full of mostly strangers and waited downstairs. My protective mother instincts were kicked in fully. It’s not that I feared that someone was going to hurt her, touch her, or snatch her. I would never let her be involved in anything if I had those kinds of concerns. No, my motherly instincts were more about how she wasn’t with the other two children. She was going to be rehearsing with experienced adults who know how to read music, have had proper voice training, and more than anything else, are confident to raise their hands and say ‘Wait, go back – I’m confused here – What do you want us to do again?’ I saw my little girl drowning in a sea of ‘lost’.
I waited downstairs for the remaining hour or so of rehearsals and as I watched Punky come out the door I could see equal looks of joy and trepidation on her face. “How’d it go?” I asked. “Good. Hard.” she said. On the car ride home she talked extensively about her struggles working with the ensemble group. She doesn’t read music (a fact I now strongly believe we’ll have to remedy if she is going to continue in her musical theatre pursuits). She talked about things that rang a *faint* bell for me as once upon a time, for a brief moment, I played the piano. She told me how a very nice older woman in the ensemble helped her and how she thanked her profusely. I could tell that Punky was equal parts thrilled to be there and terrified. My motherly instincts were correct. She *had* been ‘lost’.
This hurt my heart, just a bit. On the other hand, I was proud of Punky. She never once said to me that this was going to be too hard to do or that she wanted to back out. She didn’t go on and on about her struggles in a way that was complaining. She was simply explaining to me what happened in an effort to articulate what exactly she didn’t understand as if she were assessing the situation in order to remedy it. I found her response to the situation to be very mature. We brainstormed on the way home how we could remedy the situation in both the short term and the long term. The long term solution is obvious – we need a good voice coach who can teach her the foundations and move her into the advanced. The short term solution is – we need a good voice coach who can teach her the foundations and help her with her immediate needs for this show.
I am a big believer in the idea that when you make up your mind to do something, something that is *meant to be*, the Universe conspires with you. It’s one of my forms of praying. I received a phone call this morning from a friend who asked how Punky’s first rehearsal went. Long story short, she had the name of a woman who is said to be a very good piano and voice teacher who only takes on serious minded students. Ta-da! Hopefully this will be the answer to our current need. In the interim, another friend, who has a daughter that is an advanced pianist, has offered to have her daughter coach Punky before her next rehearsal in the basics of reading the sheet music for the show!
Through it all, Punky has remained steadfast to her dreams and desire to achieve her goals. She hasn’t shown any signs that she can be taken off her current course. She handled that rehearsal, without me, as best she could and walked away more determined than ever to find a way to learn what she realizes she needs to know to pursue her goals. She clearly struggled last night at rehearsals, and will, more than likely, continue to struggle for a while. Yet, she is learning so much, on her own, and I see her growing and evolving into the young woman she will become; all without me in the room. That also hurts my heart just a bit; for entirely selfish reasons. But in truth, I mostly delight in the fact that she wants to learn to fly on her own and she’s not letting fear stand in her way. I believe she will learn to soar!