When I was ten years old, every day I would look forward to going to rehearsal for my father’s current drama club production, just to sit in the front row and stare in awe at the big kids before me. They were known as the “Thomas Middle School Players” back then. I would sit in front of the gargantuan stage and gaze up at all of the seventh and eighth graders who, at the time, seemed like the most mature, sophisticated people I would ever encounter. I felt honored to be in their presence. I would pester my father constantly, saying things like “When can I be in the show?” and “Can I do anything backstage?” He occasionally humored me by allowing me to assist in the most trivial ways, which was simply glorious for me. Thinking back on it now, I’m grateful for having been handed these trivial tasks. They certainly taught me to believe that good things come to those who wait.
I’ll never forget the time my dad allowed me to have a small role in one of his productions. I was playing “Young Girl From Mount Vernon,” a meager, one-line part. I was a novice at performing, so sharing a stage with eighth graders was unreal to me. I made sure not to miss any of my cues, and to always be on my best behavior. When I found out I would be playing this role, my reaction was no different than it would have been if I had just been told I would be playing the lead in a Broadway play. However, I still dreamed of the day when I could hold a substantial role in one of his productions. When I entered middle school, I was nothing short of thrilled to be auditioning for my father’s show.
“This is it!” I thought as a sixth grader, “I’m finally one of the big kids!”
The next three years would prove to be three of the most meaningful years of my life. It wasn’t until long after I took my final bow in my last middle school production that I realized just how much of an impact my father has had on so many people. For twelve years, he not only directed and produced full-length musical comedies, but he wrote them as well.
For many students, he ignited something inside of them that they have carried with them far beyond the stage. It wasn’t uncommon for a previously timid and shy student to walk away from one of my father’s productions with a new confidence. Every year, despite the inevitable bumps in the road, he seamlessly helped ensembles of 60 or more rambunctious seventh, eighth and ninth graders evolve into a well-oiled machine. Many of them accomplished things they never imagined possible.
I can still vividly recall my experiences as a naïve ten year old, standing awestruck before the stage I now call home. It was because of my father’s ambition and patience that I have become what I once idolized. He has fostered my love for theatre with his compassion and good humor, and continues to do so every time I have even the slightest doubt. His influence has led me to believe in dreaming big and working hard to achieve your goals.
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