I Can't MAKE You Understand

For the second summer in a row, I have spent numerous hours working on theater productions with students ranging from 5th grade through college age.  Actually, I have worked four shows – one after the other – from January till now and all of them have been with students in that age range.  And I’ve loved every energy draining, adrenaline-filled, pulling-my-hair-out moment of it.

If you don’t get that, I can’t help you.

Go ahead.  Tell me how much attitude teenagers have.  Tell me that they are self-centered and rude.  Point out that they are lazy and don’t really care about anything.  Emphasize the fact that they think they know everything and are unwilling to listen to adults. Give it your best shot as you try to convince me to hate these kids I’ve come to think of as “mine”.  I’ll smile at you and think, ‘You don’t get it.  And you’re wrong.’

Yes, teenagers can have an attitude that makes them challenging to work with.  So can adults.  Even those old enough to be grandparents.

Yes, they can be both rude and self-centered.  Again, I have met a number of “grown-ups” with the same character defect.  If we’re honest, all of us have our moments!

Yes, they sometimes act like they know it all.  So did the rest of us at that age.  Some of us still do.

In the last two years alone, while working with teenagers/young adults in the theater, I’ve had the privilege of witnessing . . .

. . . a young lady who almost chickened out before auditions who ended up landing the lead and becoming one of the most hard-working performers I’ve ever known.

. . . that same young lady coming in early and staying late or scheduling extra times to meet with the director just because she wants to make sure that she is really ready for performance.

. . . a group of total strangers become so closely-knit that they shed tears when the show is over and they know they won’t see each other as often.

. . . cast members who ask for a chance to “do it again” when I tell them that a particular scene/musical number isn’t up to expectations yet.

. . . performers who come early, stay late, and schedule extra times with the director to go over that tough number “just one more time”.

. . . yet another group of young ladies who almost gave up on auditioning only to land principal roles.

. . . high school students so touched by the performances of their fellow actors and actresses that they shed tears.

. . . students who volunteer to stand in the dark and turn stage lights on and off just because they want to be a part of the experience.

They’ve given me chills, brought tears to my eyes, surprised me by surpassing my expectations, grown as performers, given their fullest effort to an art form they love and when all is said and done, a few of them have wanted nothing more than to know that I was proud of them.

So let’s make a deal, you and I: I’ll go right on working with the college show and the senior high show then spend my summer working with middle school, high school, and college age performers in the summer theater program I direct.  And you are welcome to stand there and shake your head at me, wondering why on earth I do it.  I’ll smile, thank you for coming to the show, and keep an eye on the time so that I don’t miss the coffee get-together I have planned with some of “my” kids.

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