WOSTER: Granddaughter spreads joy with eager performancesAs I sat in a darkened theater last Saturday in Brookings watching a troupe of high school kids perform “Seussical,” I envied — and not for the first time — my granddaughter’s willingness to go on stage.
As I sat in a darkened theater last Saturday in Brookings watching a troupe of high school kids perform “Seussical,” I envied — and not for the first time — my granddaughter’s willingness to go on stage.
She wasn’t the lead in the Dr. Seuss-based, 90-minute theater adventure. There was a cat and an elephant and a curly haired girl named Jo-Jo, who looked a lot like one of the young girls our granddaughter brought to Pierre for a holiday weekend a few years ago. But our granddaughter was, ahem, Bird Girl 1. One, right? That has to mean something.
What it meant on the Brookings stage was a young woman apparently having the time of her life, singing and dancing and emoting while dressed like one of the June Taylor Dancers might have if the Grateful Dead had helped design their costumes. I kid. The costumes were creative, and the musical was delightful, a word that is too seldom used and that really does mean, well, delightful — greatly pleasing and charming.
And who could not be charmed by a musical based on Seuss? Nancy and I read those Seuss books to the kids again and again and again, so often I still can recite most of “The Cat in the Hat” from memory if I wish. It’s a small book with a great many memorable lines. I don’t recite much “Seussical,” but I dearly love the line that goes “One true friend in the universe who believes in me.”
It wasn’t so many years ago that this granddaughter nearly came to tears when it was time for her to sit at a piano in a remodeled library in Brookings and play a few Christmas tunes. Now she doesn’t miss a chance to try out for every play the school presents. In the former case, she obviously inherited something from me. In the latter case, she obviously overcame the limiting genes passed down through my side of the family.
As a grade-school kid, I fought tears year after year when piano recital time rolled around. I managed to play my modest piece somehow, but I knew the audience could see my hands and knees shaking, and I always stumbled hurriedly from the stage before the sounds of the last note — quite often not the correct one — had drifted out of the auditorium. Free for another year, as soon as my hands stopped trembling.
My dad told me once that I probably wouldn’t be as nervous before recitals if I practiced the pieces religiously and knew the material cold. Looking back from the perspective of the nearly 60 years that have passed since my last recital, I can see some merit to that approach. As a schoolboy, I didn’t analyze such things, but I suppose I made a subconscious cost-benefit calculation of additional time wasted practicing versus absolutely dying on my feet for a few hours recital day.
I never did enjoy practicing piano. I always enjoyed singing, but I refused to go out for high school chorus when I heard the music teacher tell my dad there was a good chance I’d be singing solos by the end of freshman year. Not a chance in the world I’d be on the stage by myself. Unlike my granddaughter, I guess I never grew up enough to take a risk.
I still remember my junior year in high school how my classmate Barb Kelley tried to talk me into auditioning for the school play. She said it would be great fun. From my seat in the audience on opening night, it did look like great fun. The other evening, to check my memory, I dug out the 1961 CHS yearbook. It’s amazing what a mixed group of our class participated — jocks, loners, eggheads, goofballs, the whole 17-year-old demographic. The theater drew them all. There really are no people like show people, it turns out.
I’ve heard that when you grow old, you should have a treasure chest of memories, not a box of regrets. My granddaughter is well on her way to such a life. And each time she adds a memory to her treasure chest, she adds one to mine.