Monday, December 20, 2010

Holiday Drama

I'm so looking forward to Christmas this year. It will be the only day in December not entirely consumed by children's theater performances.

Let me back up. Because we apparently have a family tradition of gettin' it on in March, the month of December is already full of birthday celebrations in my family: my mother, my late father in law, my sister. The creme de la creme birthday, of course, is the December 25 birthday I mentioned in last week's Swedish music moment. We celebrate the child's saint's day, her school birthday party, her regular birthday party, and of course the whole of Christmas day we veer from candy canes to birthday cupcakes and back. One of my favorite family pictures is of her at age two, sleeping face down and diapered butt up on the carpet at about 4 pm on Christmas afternoon, felled in her tracks by a sugar low.

But all that was manageable, until the children discovered The-a-tuh. Now they sing in choirs and take ballet twice a week. The youngest has the drama bug and an enviable comic delivery to back it up. As the terrible anti-stage parents we are, my husband and I frequently beg them to drop one of the activities, to which they say "FAME! I wanna live foreh-ehver!" and then pirouette on top of a cafeteria table with a multi-culti cast bobbing and weaving in the background.

Come December, every one of those performance programs wants to do a special show. There's the church choir show, which has many titles but always one theme: stop spending so much money on Christmas. There's the school play in which, this year, the youngest daughter plays Mowgli in the Jungle Book, a role she began rehearsing since before they even cast the show. And there's the Nutcracker, of course, four performances over two days at a real theater with ticket prices to match. Each separate activity has mandatory dress rehearsals, almost all of which conflict with another mandatory rehearsal for another performance discipline. 

Back before I had kids I loved to sample the many wonderful live performances in the Bay Area that mark the holiday season: the Smuin Ballet's Christmas show, the singalong Handel's Messiah at Davies Symphony Hall, or the Oakland Interfaith Choir gospel performance. Then a few years back I realized the biggest herald of the holiday season's arrival was not Santa at the end of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, but the sustained appearance of my own bitchy short-temper. That's when I had to accept that there simply weren't enough hours in the month, and something had to give. I didn't want that thing to be me, set out on the curb like a discarded Christmas tree by my own family.

So now the only holiday shows I see include my children in the cast list. 

I'm not complaining, really. I tear up predictably and repeatedly during every single performance, something that never happened at the professional shows, and I can waltz backstage with insouciance (ditto.) But I do miss the days when all the actors on the stage didn't silently mouth the lines along with the one person who is supposed to be speaking them (but usually isn't.) I'd give my eyeteeth to see a show where no one is waving at intervals to a grownup seated in the audience. Or turning to look at the back of the stage just when it's time to deliver their one line.

On December 25th it all comes to a screeching halt - the theater gods just can't schedule a show for that day. I plan to sit back and let my sore, reddened palms rest for a full 24 hour period. 

Of course, that was also my plan on Thanksgiving 2003, and we all know how that turned out. Our kids and their friends wrote, rehearsed, designed programs and costumes, and staged the famous "Thivifest 2003" ("Thanksgivingfest" being a bit of a challenge for a second grader to spell, and also less catchy.) I won't say it would have benefited from editing, but it made the Oberammergau Passionspiele seem like a one-act play.

On second thought, better lay in the fixings for a couple extra pitchers of my go-to holiday cocktail, the Poinsettia. If my hunch is right, Leroy Johnson and Coco Hernandez will be stopping by to sing backup, and I'll need to be prepared.


  1. Oh, isn't that the truth. This year, the kids were finally all old enough to go see A Christmas Carol. I can't believe it.

    But, still, I miss my season pass to the Opera Company here, and our Repertory Theatre House.

    I miss it bad.

  2. I will never, ever forget Thivifest. Maybe someday they'll turn it into a weekend-long music festival at some muddy locale, and we'll get backstage passes...

  3. Just switch out ballet for violin and you've got our former life. Enjoy them all while you can. Before you know it, they are twenty and too good for all that...


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