That is what my wonderful boss, Producing Artistic Director D. Lynn Meyers, told me when I apologized to her for the temperature of the performance space on Thursday at the Brighton Center. I can only hope that she's right. What I DO know is that each and every one of those kids did the best he or she could last Thursday, and they were . . . wonderful.
Besides the heat, there was pride in the air. To be sure, I was proud of them, but more importantly, so were the kids' friends and families. Moms and dads, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles took time off from work to be there for their kids. The audience was attentive and respectful, laughing at the humorous moments and interested in the questions raised by the characters in the script.
The greatest achievement, though, was how proud the kids were of themselves. Before the performance, I was actually concerned that a few of them were going to bolt! Nerves are a funny thing at this age and they manifested in many different ways. Some kids became bouncy with excitement, some were withdrawn, and some acted out a bit. All of these reactions continued, even through the performance, yet when the last line was said and the applause began, each kid was smiling and proud.
My favorite part of the afternoon was the question and answer session between the audience and the kids. This was apparently something that Kristy often does with these kids, and it was great. The questions ranged from the creative process of the Prelude Program, to each kid's personal feelings on the subject matter. One young woman, who was invited by the Fine Arts Fund to attend, shared that she had been a teenage mother, and was impressed with how real the play felt. What a gift to hear your audience respond in such a way!
Completing one of these Prelude performances is a great accomplishment for each group of kids with which we work. Each group faces their own challenges, but the knowledge that they have the ability to create something as complex as a play from start to finish is powerful. As I pointed out to the audience that day, these skills are not just things that will help them if they want to become theatre artists, but will carry over when they leave school and look for jobs. Being able to speak clearly and articulately is something that employers look for in most any field. Creativity, work ethic, and initiative? These are included in those 21st Century Skills that have become buzzwords in education and workforce training. A great source of pride to me was that many of the students that performed that day had also given an oral report in class that afternoon. Many of them told me that they had remembered the tips I gave them about acting, speech, and presentation when they were giving their reports. That translation of skills is a great success for this program.
At the moment, I don't have photos from the production to post, but I will be adding them ASAP. Traci Mans from the Fine Arts Fund spent the afternoon taking some shots for me, so they are coming, I promise! I do want to thank the Fine Arts Fund and the Brighton Center for this incredible partnership, I hope we are able to continue it in the future! Also, thank you to everyone who came to support this Prelude Program and these kids, we were thrilled to have you.
Lastly, thank you to the kids. Stay kids for a while, won't you? You're fabulous, just as you are. If you need me, you know where to find me – at the theater.