Sunday, January 11, 2015

They're on stage, but the real action is in getting there


The year 2015 so far has been pretty awesome. Busy as a homeless beaver alone in a Redwood forest, but good.


Alison is two-thirds of the way through her latest production with Young Actors Theatre.  I know a lot of you aren’t in Indianapolis but for those of  you who are, if you have kids, you should really check it out. It’s amazing.


They’re not really building actors, though there are some really outstanding talents on display. They’re building really interesting, empowered, confident, kind, smart, funny human beings. This go ‘round, the kids (with professional direction of course) wrote the adaptations of the fairy tales as well choreographing, dancing and acting. One teen designed the costumes for each of the 180 kids in the five different productions.


To quote from the playbill, “YAT is about breakthroughs, self-empowerment, becoming a life-long learner, true education and true growth. We joke around (or is really a joke?) that YAT is disguised as a theatre, when in actuality, it is a jedi training facility, Hogwarts, or Charles Xavier’s School for Mutants.”

As we headed into the actual performances, rehearsals stepped up and we’ve been working out carpooling with our friends the Feltses. Jane is in the Red Riding Hood production while Ali is in Beauty and the Beast but their hours are similar enough that it’s worked out.  We run into Hannah Ogden sometimes, too. She and Ali are in the same show.


One rehearsal night I ended up with all three girls, and Alex Ogden as a bonus, in my Mustang. Ali and the Ogdens are practically siblings of course, but Jane has only recently been exposed to the silliness that can envelop us. We were taking the Ogdens just down the street and there was general hilarity as they piled into the car calling shotgun and arguing over who had to sit on the hump.


By way of introducing his sister to Jane, Alex told her that Hannah’s kind of a big deal. “She’s like a lawyer, almost,” he said, referring to her days as a playground kid/counselor.


Taking advantage of a rare moment of silence, Alex used his best TV announcer voice. “Oh yeah. If you’re doing something wrong, she’ll tell you to stop.”  He paused. The silence persisted.  “And if you don’t stop…” He paused again. He’d won shotgun, and the back seat – even Hannah -- was hanging on his every word.


“She’ll say ‘stop’ again,” he finished.


After a quarter-second pause, they set home alarms off with their giggles. Despite Hannah’s years of YAT and Alison’s newer involvement, Alex has zero interest in joining the troupe. But he doesn’t miss a show if he can help it. His delivery may or may not have been inspired by his years as an aficionado.


After practice Thursday, I had just the girls. They were all hyped up from the pep rally that preceded the debuts Friday. Dozens of their fellow actors were milling about and there was this energy that could have lit up the city. “I love YAT!” “That was the best pep rally we’ve ever had!” “If I had to give up sports or YAT, I’d totally pick YAT.”


Getting a word in edgewise was impossible. I just unlocked the car and listened in. The performances are awesome – thank you Jasheways for making time for the Saturday show – but the bigger, longer value is in the journey to the stage

One more example and I'll stop yammering about YAT: As most of you know, Jeff used to coach soccer and basketball. We met some wondeful people those few years, and I'll always cherish our memories of the Miller boys and their friends who so wanted to come to our wedding and ended up as one of our best photos of the night.

Anyway, Jeff was talking to YAT Executive Artistic Director Justin Wade and something Justin said sparked Jeff's memories of his coaching days. It helped that just last week, he was in the hardware store and looked up when heard someone call out, "Coach!"  It was the father of one of the kids who'd played for Jeff and Fred Miller at Immaculate Heart. 

"I don't know if you remember me," he started. Of course Jeff did and he got an update on Matt, who may have gotten more of the "My dead grandmother works harder than you!" lines during those years than some of the other boys.

This dad, from 16 years ago, talked about the impression Jeff had made on his kid who now is a professional and doing great things. Jeff will always be "Coach" to those kids and their parents. Coach in a good way.

"You're going to hear the same things hundreds and hundreds of times over," Jeff told Justin. "You're doing great work, man."


Anyway, we had a terrific holiday and it's been a great weekend. One more show to go on Friday. You have time to get your tickets or donate to a great organization....

Still haven’t gotten the chimney fixed but we’ll see what Angie’s List can do for us about that and a long list of other things we need to get to.




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