Last week, my daughter was invited by lighting techs at a local civic center theatre to come in and take a look at what they do. One of the IATSE members at the theatre works with us at the Athenian Players and has been talking about my daughter’s enthusiasm ever since she first helped with a props table and then ran a spotlight last summer.
Our friend really wanted to introduce my daughter to a veteran lighting tech and show her the theatre, so we went last night to a production of 13 – the only Broadway musical to feature an entirely teenage cast and band. This production, by Lyrique Music Productions, also featured an almost entirely teenage crew (13-20). They directed, choreographed, created the set, designed the lighting and set their own lights… all with minimal adult input. There were adults present for safety reasons, but they largely kept out of it.The musical itself was pretty funny. It’s a coming-of-age story about a 12-year-old boy in New York, excited for his bar mitzvah, who is shocked when his life starts to drastically change. His parents separate and he finds out he is moving to the middle of nowhere: Appleton, Indiana. He has to deal with making friends in a strange place, trying to please the popular kids, and figuring out what it means to be a man. The jokes, mostly involving teenage drama of trying to date (and what dating means), trying to navigate a world in which you’re growing up and gaining responsibility but are still too young for many things and under adult supervision, and social missteps had both of us laughing throughout the show. I particularly liked that it was an honest depiction of being a teenager – for instance, near the end, as characters announced some of the things that happened to them while they were 13, we see the show’s theme in play: things happened – some good, some bad – and mistakes were made, but growing up means learning to deal with whatever life brings.
More impressive, to me, though, were the cast and crew. The acting, singing, and dancing were very good (some pretty darn impressive), but to some extent I expect that from kids who have been practicing those arts for nearly decade, or in some cases, more (one seventeen-year-old had been dancing since she was 4, for example). What really struck me were the choices made. The young director, Miguel Ladrillono, made some great calls on scene changes and flow. Acting choices were spot on. The stage managers had everything on track and going off without a hitch (not always easy to do). Lighting, set design, costumes, choreography – all of it was really well done.
My daughter, already enthralled by the size and technical capabilities of the theatre compared to what she’s used to working with, was just as blown away by seeing what kids her age were doing. I’m so glad we went, because we both left inspired by what we saw.