January 2011


I spend a lot of time around teenage girls.  It all stems from a mistake I made about nine years ago. When Kid 1 turned 4, I thought it would be nice to put her into dance classes.  A little ballet, a little tap, giver her a little grace and coordination (sadly lacking in our family). In return for 45 minutes a week spent in the basement of the rec center we’d get some cute pictures of our little darling in a cute, fluffy costume.  What was a year of our life?  But then the tactical mistakes began to snowball.  Kid 2 wanted to be in dance, I suggested trying out for Nutcracker one fall and it all went downhill from there. Which leads me to today when our innocent 45 minutes once a week has turned into 7 1/2 hours spread over 5 days and why I spend a lot of time around teenage girls. It allows me a lot of time for observation, a lot.

Recently we have had very cold weather around here. I mean the hoping the daytime highs get into the double digits and overnight lows dipping down into the -20’s with the windchill kind of cold weather.  And we aren’t used to that.  I being the slightly psychotic mom always made my kids bundle up before leaving the house.  They fought me, I threatened to not take them to dance, they relented, and off we went. Whether I was dropping the girls at the front door or expecting them to walk in from the parking lot it made no difference.  Somehow this didn’t apply to the girls whose parents dropped them off at the door and picking them up there.  I don’t care how short your distance to walk you still need at least some semblance of pants and a jacket.  Am I crazy or just old fashioned?

The girls who had to walk to their cars  knew well enough to put on a jacket.  Well, maybe it wasn’t always their decision but they had a jacket on! It seemed to be an age thing.  The younger kids wore jackets, had a parent with them, and walked in from the lot.  I even noticed one of these girls wearing her adorable little pink knit hat during class.  Now that’s a kid who’s ready to go out in the cold!

The mid teen girls got dropped at the door and wore nothing to keep them warm.  Their mothers (and I’m in this group) have largely gotten over the thrill of watching classes and no longer stick around.  Most are doing the ditch-and-run method of dance class management.  Some never even come in to see a class anymore.  There is a certain joy in this.  You enjoy the awe of how much they’ve advanced over the course of a year along with the rest of the audience at the yearly recital. It has a lot of appeal.

But then there are the older girls – who are driving themselves – and seemed to have relearned how to wear a jacket. It’s a true sign of maturity that they aren’t being told to wear a jacket, they’re not avoiding the weather by hopping from car to door – and back again a few hours later. They’re just wearing a jacket because they know it’s the right thing to do.

It gives me a lot of hope for my kids future. Only five, six, or maybe seven more years and I should see jackets being willingly put on and then I’ll know they’ve truly grown up. It’s all I’ve got to hold on to at this point. Nine years in and the kid still trips up steps.

The first Monday in January for most people means getting back to their daily routine.  Adults off to work, children go to school, and my family went to sleep.  Well, not literally of course, but it is fast becoming a part of our new year’s tradition to head off to Missoula Children’s Theatre auditions at the nearby civic center.  This year’s local offering is Sleeping Beauty.

For those of you who haven’t heard of Missoula, or maybe just attended a performance, here are the basics.  Monday afternoon the children audition for the two directors.  Kids from K-12 are allowed to participate and they all get up on the stage together in a large circle with two extremely energetic people in the center.  For two hours the kids are led through the auditions which involve telling their name and age (as energetically as possible), leaning a simple line and repeating it (as energetically as possible), being told to express a feeling or react to a statement (you guessed it, as energetically as possible).

The parents that sit through this sometimes hilarious process do our best to guess which kids are getting a part and sympathize with the kids who are obviously melting under the pressure  – all while being somewhat quiet and not interfering with what’s happening on the stage.

At the end of this process the cast is announced.  There are only parts for 50-60 kids (depending on which play is being performed) so the larger the group auditioning the more sad faces there are at the end of auditions.  Then – and this is the scary part – after a short break rehearsals begin that evening.

Rehearsals begin just after school time and got until almost 9pm through Friday night.  Saturday is an all day affair with last rehearsals and two shows.  It’s amazing to see how it all gets pulled together in just one week.

This year we have one Assistant Director and one very unhappy child.  So I will play supportive Mom and spread my time between the civic center theatre and the rec center dance studios.  My one blessing – they’re at opposite ends of the same building. The bad part – completely different schedules.

So at the end of this intense and exciting first week of January our two directors will load their scripts, costumes and props into their Missoula little red truck and head off to the next town and the next group of kids.  Definitely a job for the young end energetic.

As for us, we will have a day of recovery before returning to our mundane, non theatre, world. On with the show!