Stepping into the Spotlight

I was a hot mess at my daughter’s drama camp showcase last weekend. This didn’t really come as a surprise, given that I’m well-known for my ability to cry at the drop of a hat. Happy endings, sad endings, stirring music, celebrations of human resiliency, and anything involving puppies can set me off.

But there is nothing quite like watching your child step bravely into the spotlight to set your heart on fire.

The summer drama program hosted by our local community theater is truly exceptional. This was their sixth year of a fantastic partnership with an Irish performing arts group that sends instructors over each summer to run a kids drama camp. These young people aren’t just teachers. I’m fairly confident they are superheroes. In one short week, they wrangled 79 kids into an epic two-hour musical revue, with choreography, monologues, skits, and tons of singing.

Every child who wanted to sing a solo or do an independent speaking part was afforded that opportunity. Every single one.

The result was powerful – if not always pitch-perfect.

I attended the first night of the production, and although I sniffled my way through my daughter’s solo, the real meltdown came a few moments later, when another young camper took the stage to join her. He looked to be about ten and he was visibly terrified. He walked out clutching the hand of one of the counselors and clung to her throughout his four-line musical debut. His voice shook and broke and he kept his eyes scrunched tightly shut the entire time, but he made it.

And the audience went wild.

I have watched the video I took of their song half a dozen times and it makes me cry every time. After surviving his solo, he transformed. He let go of the counselor’s hand and stepped to the front of the stage with his fellow campers, smiling broadly and singing the rest of the ensemble number with gusto. He was transformed – and I suspect not just for the evening.

Moments like that can be life-changing. That kind of accomplishment seeps deep into your psyche and becomes the voice that whispers “you can” when you doubt yourself.

I’ve seen it in my daughter, too. This was her fourth year participating in the camp and her confidence and poise grow with each passing experience. She has always been an avid theater-goer, but now she also auditions for parts in community productions and she bounded onto the stage last weekend with nary a tremor.

I admire her tremendously. I’m a confident public speaker, but theater was never my thing. I hate to role-play. I can talk about myself or about an organization I care about. I can give my thoughts on current political topics or the importance of public art to historic communities. But only as myself. Don’t ask me to pretend to be someone else. It freaks me out.

Maybe I’m hardwired that way, or maybe it’s that I never participated in drama camp as a child with a group of exuberantly caring young adults whose goal in life is to see children succeed. But in any case, I am perfectly happy to watch my girl in the spotlight, while I sit in the front row, dabbing my eyes.

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