"Stay in the car and sing, boys, while I run in and buy you some lipstick."
"You didn't have enough mascara on last night, son. We'll have to put on 2 layers tonight."
"Do you prefer the long-wearing lipstick, or just the lipliner?"
Based on our activities over the last few weeks, the list could go on and on, but you can get the general idea from these statements. No, I'm not teaching my boys how to properly and tastefully apply daily make-up. I have been putting make-up on them, however - to more than a mild amount of protest on their parts! Stage make-up was a requirement, though, as the boys have starred in a local children's theater workshop production of "Fiddler on the Roof, Jr." My oldest son (we'll call him S1) portrayed Tevye and S2 (I bet you figured it out already, but I'll point out that this means my second son) played the tailor Motel Kamzoil (or Camzoil, depending on the source.)
S2 as Motel (rhymes with bottle)
Words can hardly express what this experience has meant to our family! In fact, there's no way I could properly document every feeling and important moment that has transpired, but the whole thing has been such a blessing for us that I have to try to get some of it described in writing.
Let me say now that my siblings and I grew up in a town where we were lucky enough to have an amazing Fine Arts Center. We attended dance, drama, and art classes there over the years, but mainly the three youngest of us (my next older sister, my youngest brother and I) were part of the Youth Chorale and our parents performed in several Broadway-quality operettas. At a young age and over several years, I watched my parents participate in such exciting productions as "Mikado", "H.M.S. Pinafore", "The Wizard of Oz", and "Fiddler on the Roof" from plush theater seats, as well as from the wings and storage areas off to the sides of the stage.
Here is a shot my brother recently dug up. He and I are on the front row of these groovy singing kids. I don't know when this was taken exactly, but it had to be some time in the 70's.
Here is a shot of (my younger brother along with) my dad as he practiced for his part as Lazar Wolf. He played this part in "Fiddler on the Roof" beautifully, even growing the only beard I ever remember seeing on his face so that he would look authentic. (At the time, I was about the age that my S2 is now.)
Of course, to me, my daddy was always Tevye. When Tevye sang about his little bird, it was supposed to be Daddy singing about me. When Hodel sang to Tevye, it was supposed to be my song to my dad. My mother was part of one of the families (they grouped the whole cast into families, except for Daddy because his character being a widower is an integral part of the story), but I knew she had a more operatic, leading lady voice than anyone else on the stage. I went to most of the rehearsals and watched the whole show - 11 magical, sold out performances - from the wings.
The significance of this story in our lives didn't end when that production closed. When I was married, we had a ring ceremony at our church building. My parents sang "Sunrise, Sunset" during that ceremony for us. They also sang it at my dear friend's wedding. (This friend is so special to me that her name is one of my daughter's middle names.)
Twelve years later, when our family was moving from Georgia (relatively reachable from NC) to California (where we thought we'd live for the rest of our lives - too far for most of my NC family to travel), my father quoted to me from this story. He reminded me that when Hodel is going off to Siberia to be with her intended, she says, "Papa, God alone knows when we'll ever see each other again." Then Tevye responds, "Then we will leave it in His hands." Daddy had had a stroke several years ago and was no longer a big traveller, so he knew he'd never fly out to CA. He was telling me the same thing Tevye told his daughter. I still cry when I hear the song from this scene, knowing it echoes the way I've followed my husband through all these moves, as well as the indescribable bond between my father and me. Just writing about it makes me have to swallow a new lump in my throat.
So now this tradition of ours has come full circle. S2 has been an actor in several musical productions both at his previous school and in theater groups. S1, however, is the athlete and Scout leader in the family, so I was more than a little bit surprised when he announced that he was interested in joining this camp. Not only did he want to participate, but he wanted to audition for the role of Tevye! My surprise only grew when he opened his mouth and sang BASS at auditions, making him the only child in the cast of 24 kids who does not have a soprano voice. For him to find his voice at this time and for BOTH of my older boys to be participating in this production of this particular play right now is heart-warming beyond words.
In case you're wondering, I was at the auditions because I'd volunteered to paint the set. (When you see the set's artwork in the backgrounds of pictures, that's my work!) We are conserving gas as much as possible these days, so I wanted to make myself useful while I was waiting for the boys during practices. Once I started helping, I discovered how much I enjoyed being involved in that artistic outlet! I loved working with the adults who made the play possible, as well as with all the talented kids. On the boys' audition night, I had to choke back tears and hide blushes of pride as my two boys sang and acted their hearts out, earning them the roles they'd wanted and the roles for which their individual personalities could not possibly be better suited. Neither of them is ready for Broadway just yet, of course, but they both put their whole efforts into getting these parts!
Here are my boys with my parents. Tradition, tradition... TRADITION!
Opening night was S1's first time on stage, in front of an audience, delivering lines (and lines and lines!) of dialogue and performing solos. My sister was able to attend that night, as well as some girls from S1's class at church. I suppose I should have warned him that the girls were in the audience. He didn't miss a beat when he saw his aunt in her seat, but the sight of the girls made him forget an entire line of dialogue. He recovered his character quickly, though, and finished the play wonderfully.
S2 never seems to be nervous about going on stage. (This attribute he does not get from me!) This character, in particular, was quite natural for him to portray. His comedic timing was especially helpful. His only opening night blunder was forgetting to put the wedding ring on Tzeitl, his bride. (He is still a pre-adolescent and a boy, after all.) The rest of his missteps and near-falls were scripted, or at least planned in advance.
The boys with their aunt (my sister):
S1 with those (distractingly cute) young women:
Last night, for their second performance, my boys had 10 family members in the audience! Since the entire place holds only slightly more than 60 audience members, it's clear that our family had a great showing. The show was especially exciting for me because it was the first time I sat down and watched the whole play from the audience section instead of on the green room monitor or from some painting position. My husband, S3, and D4 were finally able to come see the show they'd heard rehearsed so many times at home. My brother and his wife practically moved mountains to find a sitter for their young daughters so they could be at the theater for this performance. Two of my nieces were also there - one who is 5 and loves to watch Topol's version of the play on DVD, and one who is her high school's Student Body President and delegated one of her responsibilities at their football game so that she could not only watch and support her cousins, but also drive my disabled parents to the show! (I know this is an improperly long sentence, but that grammatical structure helps to show how much we recognize and appreciate her sacrifice.) It is nearly impossible to get our extended family in one place at one time any more, so the boys were thrilled to be able to share this experience with so many of their relatives over these two days!
The whole bunch at the play last night:
Since this cast puts on only two shows before they all switch parts and perform two more times in different roles (except for S2, since the cast is slightly short of boys to fill all the boy character slots), the second night of the play (last night) was closing night for S1's Tevye. It's a bittersweet time around our house today. He hummed and subtly danced the Bottle Dance as he stepped onto the field at his soccer game this morning. (I note here that this was an early game - an early game a little over 1/2 hour away from home, no less, and he'd insisted on going to the ice cream place with the cast the night before. Oy!) As we walked back to the car after his team had won their game (woo hoo!), he had already begun to sing, "If I Were a Rich Man." We talked on the way home about the mix of feelings actors and crew experience any time a play ends. I think my oldest son and I have talked more, and more deeply, during this last 1&1/2 months than we did for the entire several months preceding it. That development, alone, is priceless to me!
In an increasingly difficult time for my family, this play has surely been an indescribably special experience for us! (You'd get a kick out of my boys and me singing along with the soundtrack as we drive all over town for the various things we do. My 4-year-old daughter can even sing "If I Were a Rich Man" most of the way through!) What an inspiration! What a blessing! What a gift! What a TRADITION!