by Lara Ryner
One of the things I look forward to the most with the Fairy Godmother program is the children’s commentary. If there’s one thing I have learned from working with children it is that they are not shy when it comes to telling you what they think. If they liked it, you’ll know it. If they are scared, you’ll know it. If they think it’s awesome, you’ll know it. And if they think it’s boring, you’ll definitely know it. Every morning I can’t wait to hear what words of wisdom will come from the mouths of babes!
The Fairy Godmother program is the reason Education Director Amy King wanted to work here, and it was also the first thing that drew me here as well. It’s pretty powerful stuff. The program invites some of Cincinnati’s most underprivileged school children to ETC to see a production of our holiday show for free. It is meant to be a gift. Children who otherwise might not have the opportunity to ever see a professional production, or do something fun and festive and merry and bright this holiday season are invited to our theatre to share in some serious joy and fairytale magic with our theatre family. And we love having them! They see a unique new version of a classic story they love, help us make some magic onstage, laugh at the silly antics of our fairytale friends, and fill their bellies with a healthy treat of fresh apple slices at intermission. And it’s not only the actors and education staff who get in on the merriment. Our box office associates offer to come in and hand out snacks, volunteers usher children in, the tech crew is there to welcome the kids and help them open water bottles, and plenty of hugs are had by all!
This year our holiday show is a world premiere production of Snow White by ETC’s favorite dynamic duo David Kisor and Joseph McDonough, which means that the lucky kiddos who filled the seats on November 21st were the very first people in whole wide world to see this show.
Every day it seems I have a new favorite moment. Some are funny, like the child who boldly answered the rhetorical question “you know what?” with a loud, enthusiastic “What!?” during the curtain speech. Others are endearing, like the little boy who secretly shared that his favorite part of the play was when Snow White and the Prince got married. Some moments are full of wonder, as children file into the theatre, all bundled up, and they look up and notice the gorgeous mural painted on our ceiling and their jaws simply drop open in astonishment and awe. Other moments are touching, like when our operations manager Rick was engulfed in an unexpected group hug from a slew of excited kindergarteners as he passed through the lobby. And still other moments are outright gleeful, like the screeching, unabashed shrieks and laughter of children when Doom or Gloom do something silly during the show. One child asked if they were here to see the circus. Another couldn’t contain her excitement when we explained that Snow White was a real person and was really going to be here, in person, today. In a society where children are so accustomed to the movies, they can hardly believe that these people are real, live human beings who are making magic right in front of their very eyes and if they really wanted they could reach right now and touch that snow or feel that costume.
I’ve heard countless “I LOVE this place!!” and “I saw Cinderella here last year!!” exclamations. It’s a beautiful thing to be a part of. It’s wonderful, and warm, and happy, and memorable, and something special to make this season just a little bit brighter for all those children out there. And like everyone else who works here, I love being a part of it. It’s humbling to have the opportunity every week to remember what the holidays are really about – joy, laughter, love, and sharing.