|The first stage - family-created musical and theatrical performances as recreation
Before computers, video games, and dozens of
TV channels with nothing on, there was home theater. Not the big-screen
TV, DVD player, and speakers, but the real thing. Whether in the grip
of boredom, or creativity, kids put on shows for parents, grandparents,
and any patient soul they could entice. Skits and musical acts took
place in the living room or garage.
Costumes and props came together after hastily raiding closets for
old clothes and assorted junk. Casting the roles themselves, children took center stage, no longer forced by a perfectionist teacher or church choirmaster to play a silent tree or shy angel stuck at the back of the stage.
If they stumbled over their lines--or tripped while
wearing mom's oversized pumps--there was no chance of callous cackles
or stunned silence. The audience was always packed with their biggest
fans, watching with rapt attention and then applauding and shouting
"Encore!" as the performance drew to a close.
As kids, we all derived pleasure and pride from
these staged diversions, but we got more than rave reviews. That
first stage became a training ground where we could test our gifts
and try out potential personas, a place where aspirations were indulged
without fear of being stomped by critics. That's why those performances
were so important: They were a rehearsal for real life. Who doesn't
know a friend whose first guitar solo was before his family, or
a lawyer who first practiced her verbal acuity and quick thinking
before an appreciative crowd?
Whether it's a poetry recital or a game of
charades, any performance can become a life lesson. It's on the
first stage that our kids will learn to cooperate, to think on their
feet, to soldier on when props fail and lines are forgotten. More
importantly, they'll get inspiration and confidence to step into
the bigger spotlight of a sometimes unforgiving world, to face down
their harshest critics, and turn a deaf ear to the catcalls of life.