Last year as Jordan selected his classes for eighth grade I “strongly recommended” he try theater arts. The other options were less interesting and I really thought he’d find some freedom for his silly and goofy personality in the theater. Unfortunately, the middle school theater teacher is a bit high strung, strict, and prefers children who act like adults. Let’s just say there was no freedom in her class to explore the art of theater, it was about doing it her way, quietly, Or Else! Jordan preferred to be cool with the other awkward eighth grade guys so I was on the phone with her frequently about his attitude, participation reluctance, and grades. He tried to quit after the first semester, but he was required to finish the year. I am sure he blamed me for his torture. Being in theater became synonymous to that dream where you are the only one in public wearing your underwear. My hopes of him ever finding the freedom of self-expression he should have in the theater fizzled out. Huge disappointment.
This year, a very different LaTorre boy entered the same middle school as Jordan flew the coop to entertain the high school teachers. Kevin signed up for theater arts against Jordan’s warnings. You can just imagine the eyes rolling up into Kevn’s head as he shrugged off his older brother’s advice. Sure enough for a boy who can’t read enough books and spends his free time writing stories, the idea of making a story come to life was exactly what he was looking for. Within the first couple weeks of the semester I received glowing letters from this same teacher about how absolutely wonderful this young boy was and she hoped more than anything that he would remain in theater all of his years at the middle school. “A model student beyond his years.”
It is a strange experience to defend one child to the same teacher that I receive glowing commendations from about my other child. I am not sure I like being in this position at all. Jordan is not worse, and Kevin is not better: they are uniquely created to be different. And I happen to really enjoy the ways each of my sons are individuals. So, I lower my steely eye towards this particular teacher. She’s on my watch. My boys tremble whe my mama radar and pop up claws are detected. They feel sorry for her.
I did theater at the community college while I was in high school. During the summers I was in a shakespeare troupe where we did theater outdoors. We put on one play every month of the summer. People would bring picnics and blankets, sit on the hill and we performed on campus. It was great fun. I loved it. But, I was a terrible actress. I am just “too much me”. And I like it that way.
The first audition came up and Kevin casually mentioned he wasn’t sure if he should do it because he has music, spanish and tennis after school. I said, at least try and then decide afterwards if it can be worked into your schedule. He was nervous about being on stage but he really enjoys the stories and acting them out, so he auditioned. Of course, because he is her protege and perfect favorite student, he got a part. There are only a couple of sixth graders in the play. He goes to rehearsals after school nearly every day. He is one block from his piano lesson so he can walk there, and he is across the street from tennis, so he can walk over there. Seems to be no problem.
I went to the parent’s mandatory meeting last night. I know from experience that theater producers and directors are always desperate for two things: money, and help. We were solicited for both. I offered my photography skills. And I wrote a check. But I am not building sets!
Kevin loves it. His schedule is tighter than it’s ever been, but I also know from experience in theater, when you do something you love, it never feels like it takes away from you, it only enhances who you are. It is going to be a great joy for me to encourage him with theater. This play is a melodrama, Potaters, and they will perform late February.
After the meeting, the teacher pulled me aside and said,”you are Kevin’s mom? Oh, he’s just so mature for his age, so smart, such a good listener and funny too. I really enjoy having him in theater with us. Have I met you before?” I nodded, yes, I am also Jordan’s mom. Her eyes grew wide, she made the connection, then she gave me a well practiced theater smile, where one side goes up and the other side goes down, ”oh, yes, I hope he is doing well in high school.” We searched eachother’s eyes to see if we were going to get along. I too have a sly, foxy theater smile saved for just such occasions as these, and I said, “He’s much happier in high school.”
To this day just the mention of her name makes Jordan shiver. And Kevin rolls his eyes. I decided she and I are going to get along just fine now that Jordan is out of her clutch. Hopefully some day a theater person can snatch him and give him a good experience with drama. As long as Kevin is happy, so am I.
Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.