Hey, Kids!

When I was first contacted regarding this project several years ago, I admit I was a bit hesitant.  I have performed “childrens’ theatre” before, and had several jobs in the past interacting with youth of various ages.  Of course, young children (kindergarten through third grade) in large numbers can be, well…a handful.  Added to that, the production was a half-hour, high-energy two-person show, where Ihad all the dialogue (mono-logue?) !I considered the booking carefully.  This definitely would help me develop my acting “chops”:  Keeping a young audience engaged for thirty solid minutes has a certain appeal for those who enjoy a challenge…and boy, was I a perfect patsy!  After thorough review, the only real “down side” to the deal was the scheduling.  At the time, I also held a middle-management position for a financial services company, so leaving for a couple hours on practically a daily basis was something I would have to handle delicately.

Shows late in the school year were definitely a workout.  Of course, my scene partner is in a heavy costume without venthilation, so he’s worse for wear by far.  In May and June, the “gymnatorium” or “cafetorium” can be stifling just standing still, encouraging beads of sweat before the performance even begins…but we trudge on, giving it our all, to the delight of the kids, then throw back a few bottles of water before the next performance!

It was also interesting to see how differently schools treat their performance space.  Some schools have state-of-the-art equipment that is obviously well-maintained and frequently used, while others use the stage for “extra storage space.”  While it was a thrill to perform in spaces that rival area theatres, it was quite disconcerting to see other stages cluttered with broken chairs and last year’s unwanted textbooks.

These shows require you to summon your “inner child.”  Fortunately, mine resides relatively close to the surface, so it was little effort for me to jump and dance around like a kid for half an hour with my costumed counterpart on the stage!  While interacting with the audience, I also had to prompt the show’s mascot to carry out various tasks, handle anything the children would throw at us, and make sure the performance never ran short…and never ran over!

The shows continue today, and I have been exposed to several scripts over the years.  Keeping young audiences focused on the material for thirty minutes is definitely not to be taken lightly.  Kudos to school teachers whose livelihood is to keep these children engaged and learning all day, every day!

Later this month, I will be spending a long weekend in Central Florida.  Now, what would be an ideal trip for a pilot and actor?  On Friday, April 24th, I will be in Lakeland for Sun ‘n’ Fun, the largest airshow and aviation expo second only to AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.  There will also be forums, a trade show, static displays from light-sport aircraft to business jets, broadcasts from FAA‘s Production Studios and day and night-time airshows!

That takes care of the flying portion of the trip.  Well, there might be a brief diversion to the Fantasy of Flight museum on the way to Orlando for Much Ado About Nothing Saturday night and The Merchant of Venice Sunday afternoon at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater.  They’re currently offering a discount if you purchase tickets to both shows.  Their performances are always a delight, and a great excuse for a road trip, any time!

To cap-off the weekend, the London Symphony Orchestra is performing their “Brass Spectacular” Sunday night in Daytona Beach for free!  The Daytona Beach International Festival is a biennial celebration of music and performance, featuring the LSO, and internationally famous Jazz, Celtic, Brazilian, Bluegrass and other musicians, as well as a magician and childrens’ entertainers.  This festival is a MUST for music-lovers anywhere!

Although I will likely recap the trip in my next entry, I thought I would share with you some great events you might want to experience for yourself.  If you have never been, you owe it to yourself to check out at least one of these this month.  If not, Sun ‘n’ Fun will be back next April, the Daytona Beach International Festival in a couple years, and the Orlando Shakespeare Theater has a full season of excellent theater year-round!

Scott J. Smith

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