If I may step aside from the ministry news and insights to share a little family celebration. It has been an exciting theater season for our son Kevin who is a freshman in high school. I was just about to post the high school he attends, and then I realized, this is the world wide web, do I really want the whole world to know how to find my boy? No. Kevin has slipped easily into the high school life. He is on the tennis team in the mornings before school, and does theater in the afternoons until someone comes to pick him up in time for dinner. Then he does home work until he collapses in bed around midnight. I have never heard him complain about his schedule or workload. The only time he gets grumpy is if we don’t let him sleep in on Saturday. Craig and I watch him from across the room, so to speak. He doesn’t usually require inordinate amounts of parenting. An occasional nudge to help around the house is his only requirement. He’s a great kid.
We are quite impressed with how well he is handling so much pressure. And as parents of five we thank God for the easy parenting jobs and we know by now we don’t get any credit for it. It’s just a gift from above when one child is easier than another. The love is the same, it’s just the effort that’s a little uneven.
Anyway what I am writing to share today is about the one act play Kevin is in, Unexpected Tenderness. He plays one of the lead characters, the son of an abusive father. It is an autobiographical story set in the fifties, in NYC , so they all had to work for their Bronx accents.
The play is deep for high school students. It’s disturbing, especially for fathers to watch. Craig has seen it three times now and it chokes a tear our of him at the end each time. The father in the play has a raging jealousy and need for absolute control. He becomes abusive and loses his entire family to spend the rest of his life alone.
The part Kevin plays, Roddy, shares with us what it is like to grow up without tenderness from his father, and how not to repeat the cycle of abuse with his own children. The story leans heavily towards asking fathers, “what legacy are you leaving for your sons?” and “what negative behavior cycles are you passing on to generations after you?.
The good news is Roddy grows up admitting a little jealousy lurks around in his heart with his wife, but he hasn’t passed it on to his son. That’s the good news. His father turned out to be a lesson for him in “who not to be when you grow up”.
As a dark and deep a message as this play has, it also has excellent moments of comical relief. Kevin’s part has some scenes and character traits that are cute and funny.
The first time I saw the play I was surprised how good they were as a team. Usually one person has oodles more talent than the others and it can be distracting. But in this team of players each one is as good as the next. This ushers the audience straight into the story with eyes and heart open to feel it deeply. I even forgot for a few moments that I was watching my own son. That’s not easy to do.
With all this talent assembled in one forty minute play it is part of a Texas wide competition. This is a 5A high school, so all the other comparable schools in the area show their one act plays before judges. These judges are usually theater professors from universities. Our team has competed at, city, area, and regionals, and that’s where they were chosen to compete in the State competition late in May. Personally, I continue to be dazed at how good this team is, and each time they perform the play it gets better. I am predicting these players will win State. It will be in Austin and they will perform on a broadway stage!
What does this mean for Kevin? He’s only a freshman and he’s got three years to take this talent and open it wide. He’s asked for voice lessons so he can do musicals. As a senior he can direct a play for a project. He’s decided he’s going to write the play, and he’s working on it now. Kevin’s secret is that he’s always been riveted by stories. At two when we moved to Wales, we had to bring his library because the books entertained him for hours. By fourth grade I was out of reading options for him, just waiting for authors to write something new. By sixth grade Kevin was writing his second novel. He still writes novels for fun and I often find him on the internet researching his character for details he can use in his writing.
It makes perfect sense with his penchant for stories that he would get up on a stage and bring them to life. What is a head scratcher though is Kevin is the quietest boy in the room, any time anywhere. But on stage he bares his whole heart and soul, holding nothing back. Craig and I check each other wondering simultaneously, “is that our son?”
As his mom, it gets me a little weepy to see parts of myself flourish in him. I used to perform on stage with gusto and it was the happiest times of my childhood. I am an insatiable reader, and I do love to share a good story through my fingers on a keyboard. I never sat Kevin down and taught him any of what he is doing so well. It is just who he is. And seeing parts of myself in him appear, well that causes me to shed a tear. I can only think of how truly and utterly amazing God is with his design of humans and genetics, and the ability He gives us to influence the nature with nurture. And that’s very much what Unexpected Tenderness is about. We can change, and we have to keep changing.