When Good Kids go Bad

Okay, so maybe I’m dating myself, but when I say bad, I mean bad, like great! Like awesome. Like the very best. Our show “Elves in the Toyshop?!” (available in 2009 at Heartland Plays) opened this weekend to a standing room only crowd at Pioneer Playhouse, the oldest and longest running playhouse in Kentucky. Pioneer Playhouse has seen the likes of John Travolta, Lee Majors, Bo Hopkins and Jim Varney, not to mention myself who took to the stage there as Esther in Paul Osborn’s Morning’s at Seven this past June. (For those of you who remember, Johnny Crawford from the hit TV western “The Rifleman” played Thor.) Film and stage director, Robby Henson, who’s latest movie House opened nationally Nov. 7, asked me if I would step in when Kim Darby (True Grit, Halloween) bowed out of the play and he found himself an actor short. I hadn’t been on stage since I played Amelia in A Comedy of Errors in front of 1000 people at a Shakespeare Festival over four years ago. I was terrified. But I survived. Now I was directing a group of 30 kids, students in the Arts for Kids, ETC theatre training program for youth, at the same theatre. And they were great! Which was on the way to outstanding. Through the rehearsal process, the kids in the show grew steadily into the makings of a good show. But I told them good was okay but that we should shoot for outstanding and along the way we’d find great. And that they were. The main problem with plays with the characters played by kids, is that most people don’t realize that acting is a skill. No one places a flute in front of a child and tells him he’s playing in a concert in 6 weeks or hands a ball to a kid who’s never thrown a baseball, at least not across home plate, and tells her she’s pitching in the championship game on Friday. That would be disastrous! And yet we put kids in front of audiences with no training all the time. And the results are just as bad. And by that I mean uncomfortably bad. But give a child the opportunity to learn, to develop acting technique through qualified instructors, acting coaches and directors, and the results are amazing. We play to 300 area school children on Monday and those kids are in for a treat. So the next time you hear there’s a children’s play playing with real kids playing the parts, don’t assume they’re bad or that the play will be bad. Check out the group’s history. If the theatre company provides acting classes and workshops for kids, you might be pleasantly surprised at the quality of their work. And in that case, I mean, bad, eighties-style bad, and that means great!