We all went to see the play at the local high school: my kids, my parents, Blonde Sister and her family, a bunch of our extras, even Brooklyn Friend. In fact, we bought 42 tickets altogether over the three nights that the play ran. My husband and I saw it three times.
It was a terrific production, filled with singing and dancing — and clever adlibs when things didn’t go exactly as planned. The cast wore rented costumes in bright colors, and a whole crew of teenagers dressed in black came out between scenes to shift big pieces of the set.
But you’ve probably guessed the big draw. Our youngest son was up on stage.
Longtime readers probably remember my stories about how shy With-a-Why was a child. Throughout first grade, he never said a single word to the teacher. Not one word. And even as a teenager, he often hid behind his long hair.
But music has drawn him gradually out. Piano Teacher was one of the first adults outside of the family that he would talk to. With her encouragement, he played recitals and exams often enough that he was no longer intimidated playing in front of an audience. Playing the piano was a way for a quiet child to express himself.
My father takes credit for discovering that With-a-Why could sing. When he, Shaggy Hair Boy, and With-a-Why got together for jam sessions, he started giving With-a-Why some vocals. Then Choir Teacher convinced him to join the high school choir, invited him into the select Chamber Choir, set him up with voice lessons, and eventually began asking him to sing in front of people.
Music drew him to the high school play, and being in that play was a transformative experience. He even cut his hair for the part — and donated 18 inches of fine, black hair to a charity. The day he returned to school with short hair, Drama Teacher stopped me in the hall to say, “Thank you for cutting his hair!” Then she added, “You should see the attention he’s getting from the girls.”
Hanging out with the bunch of creative, expressive students who are drawn to drama club turned out to be just what With-a-Why needed. I’ve watched these last couple of months as the last vestiges of his shyness disappeared.
He played Ralph Sheldrake, a fast-talking Big City professional. Not exactly the part I’d give a shy, small-town boy. But onstage, dressed sometimes in a suit and sometimes in a uniform, he delivered his lines with confidence, just like a smooth-talking Ladies' Man. He sang beautifully, and even danced at the end.
“He didn’t seem shy up there at all, did he?” Drama Teacher said to me afterwards. I could tell that she and Choir Teacher, as well as Piano Teacher who had come to watch the show, were all proud of how he’s blossomed. I wanted to put all three teachers up on the stage and give them a round of applause for what a difference they’ve made in one young man’s life.
The young man in the uniform dancing to the left is With-a-Why.