Not long after we finished Godspell, the Artistic Director at CYT sat down with us and asked Adam and I if we'd be up for writing a show based on The American Tall Tales. We started kicking around ideas and suddenly a sort of "Night at the Museum" meets "American Folklore" idea was born.
We were excited because both Adam and I feel like theatre should be fun. And the stories lend themselves to lots of FUN...and really, what's the point if you don't enjoy it? (Isn't that true of anything?) I say yes.
When we agreed to write the show, there were no plans of uprooting our family and moving to Colorado, so we thought we'd take all of last summer and work on it nights and days off. Piece 'a cake.
Moving changed all of that, setting us several months back on our deadline. Keep in mind that Adam was starting a new job and I was working on rewrites for my novel...and we had kids to acclimate to a new school and a new house full of packed up boxes... It was a lot to juggle, but I have to tell you the truth. I think it helped us to be so busy. It helped us settle in and feel like we were still a part of something. As much as we could be.
And it filled our home with music.
For months, Adam wrote music based on the script I'd written and he and Sophia recorded the songs so the kids would have rehearsal tracks. I can't lie...I loved it. The show was coming to life right there in our living room. We'd read through it scene by scene, acting out the parts and fixing things along the way.
And then we sent it off for someone else to direct...which, I admit, was sort of weird! I was nervous about not working through the kinks in rehearsals, but having done CYT, we were able to anticipate some of them. The directing team gave us some great feedback, some wonderful suggestions and we did a couple of simple rewrites and the kids got to work pulling it all together.
If I'm honest, I really didn't have time to go home this past weekend. None of us did...but I wouldn't have missed it for the world.
We drove in to Huntley on Friday night (opening night)...
Then it came time to watch the show. We had no idea what to expect, but we sat back and enjoyed the kids' performances. Of course, we also critiqued our script and music the whole time. We found some great things to change, discovered which jokes worked (one of mine got a nice laugh and I teased Adam because he almost cut it out!) and which didn't. We were once again blown away by the talent and thankful that CYT doesn't underestimate them.
And even though we were worried about some of the song keys and transitions we'd written, we had parents come up to us and tell us what the show has meant to their family...
Because CYT is a family affair...
This little group that we're flanking here are three siblings who've all come up in CYT. I told them it was time for us to take a photo with "the beautiful people." Geesh!
But they blew me away. The girl on the left played "Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind Crockett." I thought she was seventeen.
I know that means nothing in a blog post, but this girl has the poise and maturity of a performer many, many years older...and I have to say, she's as good as anyone I've ever seen in a professional show. Her sister, next to me, is a dancer who didn't realize until recently that she can sing. (And boy, can she sing.)
They were both leading roles in the show and their brother (who Adam's worked wtih before) was the Asst. Director.
We also got to meet some of the other cast members...
...and I was so shocked at the reception we got. These kids are humble and gracious on top of being insanely talented. If for no other reason, I think we made that trip to remind us how much we love theatre and also that your sphere of influence isn't always limited to those you can see. (Up there are (from l-r) the teacher, Johnny Appleseed, Annie Christmas and Annie Oakley.)
This boy played Paul Bunyan...
We went home with such mixed emotions that night. Elated, excited, thinking about some of the things we wanted to tighten before Rockford does Tall Tales in the fall. Trying to work out ways that we could fly home and direct that production. Marveling over the kids and chatting up their talent.
And yes, missing CYT.
We went back the next day with our whole crazy clan (and picked up an extra member...)
Sophia was so happy to see her best Illinois friend.
I admit, I was a walking stress ball that day. I get stressed when I get nervous and I think I spent most of the weekend nervous. Nervous to fly. Nervous to see the show. Nervous what people would think of the show. Nervous Sam wouldn't do well during the show.
Nerves. Ugh. Adam kept saying "you need to learn how to relax."
I'm thinking massage. In a beach cabana. In Hawaii. With no responsbilities. For at least five consecutive days. Without my computer.
They invited us back stage before the show to talk to the kids.
They asked us questions like "Which song did you write fourth?" and "How'd you come up with the name 'Sloane' for the girl?"
We loved talking to them and they were so so excited...the energy back there was palpable.
The good things about it translate from county to county and hopefully state to state. There's a great CYT in Denver and Adam and I have talked about starting one up here where we are, but it's a time issue at this point.
Still, I have to tell you...if you have a kid who, like me, isn't an athlete and who has any inkling of a desire to perform (sing, dance or act)...seek out a CYT.
The enjoyment they'll get being a part of this group is unmeasurable. It will build their confidence and give them an incredible sense of self. It will teach them to push themselves and to deal with disappointment when they don't get the part they want. And it will show them that hard work can sometimes lead to surprising yourself (when they do get the part they want.)
I am so thankful for the gracious reception we got at this production, so happy we made the trip and so grateful they allowed us to be a part of it. (Thank you, thank you, CYT Chicago!)
...now when do we start the next one?