Friday, January 08, 2010

Out of Control, Part One

It's just best to recognize up front that we are all, like it or not, out of control. It's not a bad thing. On the contrary, it is a fact that brings me much comfort in life. The world is a safer place because I am not in control, and I am a better person when I can accept that fact and rest in the knowledge that the One in control is trustworthy.


Tuesday night, the whole family escorted our nine-year-old daughter, Elliana to a community playhouse down the valley. When you educate at home and your child wants to take a drama class, what better education is there than jumping in to community theater? She had been waiting two months for the chance to audition for the musical, Annie, and Tuesday was the night.

We pulled into the parking lot and our jaws dropped. The lot was packed. The windows of the theater lobby showed that the building was nearly bursting with little girls hoping to play the little orphan girls. Andy and I exchanged a wide-eyed glance, followed by a sad smile and began to remind Elli, once again, that there were too many girls for everyone to get a part. Most of the girls would NOT be cast.

I reminded her again that just trying out was wonderful experience and would prepare her better for other auditions in the future. I explained that, if she were to get a part, it would be an opportunity for her to learn how to handle success well and use her position as a way to be a blessing to others. On the other hand, if she were to not get a part, it would be an opportunity to learn how to handle failure with grace and a motivation to improve her skills for the next time. Either outcome was a way that God could grow her into the person He wants her to be, so either outcome was positive--if she could see beyond the immediate and consider the much more important, long-term development of her character.

Once everyone was seated in the theater, paperwork filled out and turned in, the director addressed the crowd. She was blown away by the turnout, but sadly acknowledged that she would only be able to cast sixteen girls. There were at least fifty in the room at that moment, and Wednesday was another day of auditions, so many more girls than that would be up for consideration.

Andy and I continued to glance at each other--raised eyebrows, sad smile.

First came the dancing. The choreographer called all the girls to the stage and divided them into five groups of ten to twelve each. She had the first group stay on the stage while her teenage dance students took the other groups out into the lobby. She would teach a short dance routine to this first group while her students taught it to the other groups. Elli, in the second group, dutifully retreated to the lobby with the others.

The choreographer lined the first group up in two rows on the stage, smiled at them encouragingly, then showed them what she wanted them to do. She talked enthusiastically as she demonstrated.

"Okay, we're going to start with a basic box step, like this, then step-ball change, a big chasse' to the right, tip and point, step-turn, step-turn, pivot, then pirouette (inside or outside, it doesn't matter to me, and if you can make it a double, even better) and a big finish. This isn't ballet, girls, so I'm not interested in your precision control as much as your flair. Make it big and free-spirited and fun for me. Okay, did everyone get it? I'll do it a couple more times for you, then we'll practice all together with the music..."

I squirmed uncomfortably in my seat. Elli hasn't taken any dance classes. These terms might as well be from a foreign language. I wondered how well she was picking up the moves in the other room.

The first group was dismissed. Some had picked up the moves well and others had struggled. It was obvious who had dance experience and who didn't. Elli's group lined up on the stage. The choreographer asked them how well they had learned the dance. All the girls began to talk at once about how they hadn't had a chance to learn the dance because the teenage helpers hadn't been able to get organized and get everyone quiet and paying attention yet. The choreographer suddenly went from encouraging and supportive to impatient and exasperated. "Ok, fine," she said, "I'll show you quickly. Watch me..."

She rushed through the routine with very little explanation and very few adjectives to describe what she was looking for. She didn't remember to ask the girls who had kicked off their boots to move them out of the way. She failed to note that the back row was pressed up against some staging material and didn't have room to move. The music started and the girls flopped around on the stage, bumping into each other with arms flailing, tripping over boots, clearly unsure of what they were to do.

"Ok! Stop! I'll show you again..."

One more quick run through. I saw light bulbs go on above the heads of some of the girls. Elli's bulb in the back row stayed dark. The choreographer didn't call the back row up to the front as she'd done before, but instead just dismissed them quickly and called for Group 3. I started whispering my desperate protests to Andy.

He finally held up his hand and shushed me. "Am I being a stage mom?" I hissed. He nodded and shot me the now famous sad smile. Elli was clearly out of her league and I was not helping anything by looking for every possible injustice. I had prepped Elli to be ready to learn and grow in the face of disappointment. I had failed to prep myself apparently.

But Thursday morning we found her name on the list taped to the theater door. She had been cast.

Was I in control of this situation? No. Did everything work out better than I could have imagined, without any involvement on my part? Indeed. Maybe I can learn and grow, yet.

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