We have attended several productions by Haven Academy of the Arts. Several shows ago Jacob asked “Mama, when can I be one of the kids up on stage?” Today marked the beginning of that possibility for him. Natalie was able to have a stage appearance through her “Pretend and Play” preschool class a few months ago. She had come on stage during the “Narnia” performance as a little mouse during the scene with Father Christmas. But she had hoped for a bigger role. Something more than a few minutes. So this is why both Jacob and Natalie are now thrilled beyond belief at the thought of being in the cast of a show! And they are sooooooo excited to be doing it together. I love that they love each other so much!!!
We had talked about this two and a half month commitment quite extensively at the dinner table. Could the kids handle that length of commitment? How would it affect them after a full day for Jacob at DaVinci? And after a full day for Natalie with Spanish class and then preschool? What would dinners look like in the craziness of running from one place on my volunteer workday at the school to the rehearsals? Would they like it? Would they stick with it for the long haul of the commitment? Would they grow too tired especially during tech week with late bed-times? So many questions. We decided to just give it a try and find out.
I had no idea what to expect when we arrived this afternoon. What goes on behind stage? How does a show come together? What do rehearsals consist of? How does Rebekah organize all the kids and then end up teaching them all the parts? So in we walked, the three of us, completely oblivious and wide-eyed with curiosity with what it would all be about.
I hadn’t exactly been stellar mom in terms of preparing for the paperwork aspect. I did print out the necessary registration papers last night. And I had skimmed over them and noticed there was a line requiring the signature of the cast member, acknowledging his/her commitment to showing up to every rehearsal. So this morning before taking Jacob to school, I explained the contract to him and had him sign it. But after that point in the morning the day went into fast-paced mode: making photocopies at Steve’s school, organizing the month-long homeschool parent work log, taking Natalie to Spanish class, going grocery shopping for my designated snack day at preschool, picking up Natalie, going home to turn cupcakes into a creatively designed “turtle” cake, zooming off to preschool for my workday, but first needing to stop at Steve’s school to drop off the late afternoon/early dinner he would have to give Jacob before taking him to Haven…….so the day zoomed by and I didn’t have a free moment to show Natalie the Haven contract nor realize that actually there were two pages that required each cast member’s signature. Doh!
So upon our hasty arrival at 4:03, I found that all the children were already sitting in a circle on the floor of the OCF auditorium. Wow! Impressive! I love that on-time starting organization!!!! There was a moment after the introductory explanation where the group was going to move to another room. I snagged Jacob and Natalie and explained I needed their signatures for parts of the cast member contracts. I could see and feel their huge desire to stay with the group and not miss a single moment. And yet I knelt there reading to them all the expectations of their commitment level. I wanted them to know what they were agreeing to with their signature. I wish I would have planned better and had these conversations at home with them. I felt so badly for pulling them away and giving them that feeling of angst that the group was moving on without them.
After that I thought I was going to leave and come back at 6:30, but I was so curious and excited to see the process! So I chose to be a fly on the wall and watch. And boy was I impressed!
I was impressed on so many levels. I was impressed by my kiddos’ confidence and ability to just jump right in and learn dance steps, sing with confidence and stay focused with a great deal of enthusiasm despite their mind and body having been fully engaged during the day. I was impressed that little Natalie, only 4 1/2, standing in the middle of sea of children all towering above her, held her ground and learned alongside all of them. I kept seeing glimmers of her well-worn Jesse cowgirl red glitter boots in the sea of dancing feet. I couldn’t see her because her body was hidden by all the other bodies of older, bigger, taller kids. And yet I could see feet in those shiny boots trying to stick with all of it- kicks, jumps, boxsteps. What really cracked me up was when I was helping her get ready for bed later in the evening and out of those boots poured a whole pile of sand from her preschool playground time. Are you serious?!? How could she be doing all that jumping and dancing with boots full of sand??! She wasn’t phased by it at all. Such beautiful dedication and focus!
After time in one room learning the choreography of a dance, then they moved into the main auditorium where they sang part of the song “A whole new world”. I watched my little 4 1/2 year old Natalie strut herself with confidence, leading the pack of kids, to the stage. As she climbed the steps to the stage she put each foot down with marked assurance and confidence in who she was, where she was, what she was doing and who she was as a leader bringing everyone up onto the stage with her. Wow. I stood there marveling at her confidence. It was a mama-proud moment. Nothing that I can take credit for. Just proud and filled with joy at her confidence.
To see Jacob’s hand beat wildly in the air as he jumped on his tippy toes in hopes of being called on to sing a solo of “A whole new world” song, made my heart smile. Here he was completely in his element. Excited about music. Excited at the prospect of singing. Such a happy moment to watch.
At that point Steve joined me from work and then we headed home to catch a quick bite of dinner. As I sat at the table thinking of all that I had just experienced, I was filled with gratitude for Rebekah Hellerman and everyone who works with her. Seeing the joy on those kids’ faces and knowing that a road of hard work and lots of practice lies ahead for each of them, I was just so overwhelmed with gratitude that Haven exists. I am thankful already that Jacob and Natalie will learn about tenacity and perseverance through practicing something over and over and over again. I am thankful for the art of theater they will be able to experience and be a part of extending to an audience. I am thankful that they will have the opportunity to forge new friendships with all these children they will be in rehearsal with. I am thankful for the confidence this will build in each of them. I am thankful that I can leave them in the hands of a woman I know is trustworthy, competent, gifted and highly passionate for this work.
We all came home with grins from ear to ear. I have a feeling this is the beginning of a very fun thing! But I’m already laughing at the thought of having the Aladdin soundtrack played on repeat a million times and stuck in our heads for the next few months. We are entering a happy season. A whole new world. 🙂
As Jacob and Natalie walk onto stage each practice session they experience the thrill of ‘a whole new world’, theater. Bravo! Nina and Steve for letting them participate in this musical show as young as they are. Thank you for so beautifully describing their official introduction as cast members. I am very proud of them 🙂