I’ve had the pleasure of attending two student theatrical performances in the past two weeks: “Alice in Wonderland” at the Broadway Theatre, and “Mamma Mia!” at Mount Pleasant High School. For both shows I was there on opening night, in a nearly-full auditorium, (it’s still weird, three years after the pandemic started, to be in a crowded in-person space and most of us aren’t even wearing masks), and both of these experiences gave me a sense of community and joy.
As with any theatrical undertaking, I’m amazed by the dedication and commitment to a common goal that it takes to stage these shows. “Mamma Mia!” featured musical numbers with 30 high schoolers on stage at once, singing and dancing; “Alice” was staged with a cast of youngsters from 2nd grade to high school. Costumes, sets, live music, singing, dancing, lighting—these shows are a labor of love for the cast, crew, directors…and for the parents.
Both audiences were full of families: parents with flowers for the performers; grandparents; younger siblings. After each show I was able to talk with parents who were full of pride for their kids. Many of the kids in these shows find a sense of belonging and purpose and success in the theatre that they do not find elsewhere. I got a sense of that from these shows and these parents; and that’s the way it was when I was in student productions in high school as well.
The sense of joy and community that I had at both of these performances is summed up in one moment from “Alice in Wonderland.” Earlier, the show had been interrupted briefly by a fire alarm going off in the middle of one of the scenes. The young actors took it in stride and resumed after a brief delay, starting from the beginning of the scene. After the show, young actors, their families and much of the audience gathered on the sidewalk in front of the theater. The crowd was alive with flowers and hugs; the kids still had their make up and costumes on; proud parents were beaming and taking photos. The hugs and laughter, the love and relief and pride and joy spilled from the sidewalk into the street and brightened the cold March air. The sidewalk and street were momentarily transformed into a surging oasis of joy.
Long live the theatre. Long live the joy of people coming together for art and community.
May the actors and singers and musicians be blessed. May the parents with the endless rides to rehearsals and moral support be blessed. May the directors and choreographers be blessed.
May every human community be blessed with art—theatre, dance, and song—may art and artists thrive in this place and throughout the world.
Rev. Andrew Frantz
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Rev. Andrew Frantz
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