Working with my daughter

I’m going to embarrass my daughter.  She hates it when I write about her.  A boy might read it.  But I’m having tremendous fun right now, and want to share it.

The Covey Center Blackbox is producing my play, The Plan, and hired me to direct it.  They have enough budget to pay actors and also a stage manager, if I wanted one, and knew someone who would do it.  Scott Bronson has used his daughter as his stage manager there, and on a whim I asked my youngest, Lexie, if she was interested.  She’s only seventeen, a lovely, smart girl with an active social life–I didn’t think she’d want to.  It was flattering to see how enthusiastically she accepted.

Only one of my kids has ever really wanted to perform.  My oldest son, Kai, was lead guitarist in a band, but it took him awhile to overcome stage fright enough to feel comfortable on-stage.  My daughter Bekka initially majored in theatre, and even acted in a play I wrote, Family, in a production at Dixie., though she’s since quite sensibly switched to accounting.  My second son, Tucker, is too shy, though our family knows how incredibly funny he can be.  Lexie finds the prospect of performing embarrassing.  But she’s smart, she’s organized, and she’s energetic–I thought she might make a very good stage manager.

And so it has proved.  She’s incredibly good at it.  When we got the scripts back from  the copy center, they came in a big paper bag, and that’s where she keeps everything, but everything’s there–the schedule, contact information, the master script with blocking and cues.  She comes to rehearsal carrying this ratty old paper bag, but then someone will ask her for something, and she knows exactly where to find it. She knows the paper bag looks dorky, and she’s embarrassed by it, but we haven’t had time to shop for a proper stage manager’s bag.  So she’s made the best of what she has.

My health has improved to the point that I can actually do this, direct a show.  But I don’t know if I could do it without her.  She doesn’t just drive me to rehearsal; she drops me off close to the building, and then parks the car.  And I move so slowly that she usually beats me to rehearsal anyway.

But that’s not what’s really cool.  What’s really cool is how into it she is. She sits in rehearsal on the edge of her seat.  Nothing escapes her.  She’s a little shy about offering suggestions, but when she does, she’s spot on–she even suggests line readings that are inevitably perfect.  She loves the process.  She’ll watch a scene, and when a moment that was a little off shows improvement, she’ll bounce in her chair with excitement.

She’s always liked going to plays, especially if they’re funny plays with cute boys in the cast.  But what amazes me is how much she’s into the process.  Audiences are generally good for about one funny story about process–after that the attitude is: ‘don’t tell me about the labor pains, just show me the baby.’  So yeah, cool, Helena played that one practical joke on Colin, and here’s how he got her back.  Hilarious!  Now screen the daggone movie.

The process of making art can be tedious.  I mean, I’m sort of interested in why the painter stretched that particular canvas that size and mixed those particular paints.  Up to a point.  And then I mostly just want to look at the painting.  I especially think talking about writing is boring.  I mean, you sat at your computer for six hours.  And the next day, you did it some more.  Riveting.  (Stephen King’s heroes are often writers, but we don’t see them actual write–mostly we see them ramming wooden stakes through the hearts of vampires and stuff like that.)

But Lexie loves process. That’s what’s so great.  She loves the tiny, incremental improvements in each performance, she loves watching good actors shape a characterization, she loves watching the different ways different actors work.  We have one actor who loves to try out different readings in rehearsal.  He’ll be doing a scene, and he’ll say the same line four times, different reading each time, trying things out.  Lexie’s amazed by that, and amazed as well that the last one is always the best.  And she’s incredibly good at giving lines.  When actors are still learning their lines, they say ‘line’ when they can’t remember what they’re supposed to say next.  But it’s not that simple.  Sometimes they completely dry up, but want to work it out themselves, sometimes they’ll jump a few lines, sometimes they’ll paraphrase.  The stage manager has to be sensitive to how they work, to what will help them, who needs a prompt and who she should wait for, and when to correct.  Lexie’s great at it.  It’s like she can read their minds.  And it helps that she’s essentially got the entire script memorized.

Lexie wants to be a doctor.  Her grades in high school support that dream.  She doesn’t want to do theatre for a living, which I am, believe me, fine with.  But I’m so glad I’ve been able to share this one thing, this one show with her.  We’re having the best daddy/daughter bonding experience imaginable, and I’m so incredibly grateful.

So come see it.  The Plan opens at the Covey Center Black Box in Provo on March 18.  And if you have a chance, say hi to the girl in the stage manager’s booth–clearly visible from the house in that space.  She’s my stage manager, and I couldn’t be prouder.

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5 Responses to Working with my daughter

  1. Katya says:

    Audiences are generally good for about one funny story about process–after that the attitude is: ‘don’t tell me about the labor pains, just show me the baby.’

    Oh, man. I must be an extreme exception, then, because I often enjoy the director’s commentary more than the actual film.

  2. Jonathan Langford says:

    Great story. It makes me wonder: what are some of the ways that we who love literature share that love with our families? How important is that active sharing to fostering a love of literature in our children? How important was it in fostering a love of literature within us? I suspect that to a great degree, those who love literature as adults are those who did literary things in childhood with their families.

  3. So cool, Eric! I still want to sing a duet with my opera-trained daughter, but I’m afraid I’d just embarrass her. (Maybe like you singing with your dad? Or would that be okay?) My oldest son was a major theater geek (using current vernacular), and my second daughter is a wonderful singer/photographer. Youngest son? ATHLETE!! We needed someone with muscles in our family. He hates musicals, plays, Shakespeare and most literature that doesn’t involve a plane crash. But he looks like Michelangelo’s David, only clothed and shorter.

  4. Darlene says:

    I’m a total non-drama person who is entranced with the process of bringing a play together. I’m envious of her opportunity. How fun for both of you to work together, too.

  5. Ron Hathcock says:

    I took my eldest, Dawn, to see the final performance. We got to speak to Lexie afterwards. It was a fantastic play with its exploration of both The Plan and the people we know from the Bible.

    The play made me think about things I’d not considered before, like how little freedom Bathsheba had in her dealings with a wayward king or how Leah reacted to Jacob’s discovering he was married to the “wrong” girl. Lucifer wanting to be a shark was hysterical and, I think, spot on characterization! Eve’s final scene was the most moving thing I’ve seen on stage in years.

    I don’t know what sort of health problems you’re alluding to… I’ve managed to have my heart jump-started by EMTs, so I know a bit about falling apart as we age. So, if you have some time, please contact me.

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