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Confessions of a sports mom turned theatre mom

If you’ve read my contributions to this blog, you know I’m well-versed in being a sports mom.  

But now I’m a theatre mom, a role for which I have far less preparation. When I tell you I’m a total rookie, I mean I’m a total rookie (my use of the word “rookie” is a good indication of that). 

My youngest, Annabelle, is in rehearsals for “The Sound of Music” at Totem Pole Playhouse, our local summer stock theater and “the Cadillac of summer theaters,” according to the New York Times.  

I swear this is not a humblebrag. I just want you to understand my awe and absolute unpreparedness for this endeavor.  

The audition was the first indication that I was out of my league.  We took this plunge on a whim. We love “The Sound of Music” – Annabelle and her sister, Sophie, have watched it countless times – so when I saw Totem Pole was holding auditions, I asked both girls if they’d like to give it a shot. Annabelle , who seems to have developed a singing voice, at least for singing along with the car radio, was game.  

The theatre asked for a headshot and resume. I printed an enlarged copy of a recent picture that showed her face and personality– hitting a cheer motion after a recent clinic. I regretted that choice the minute I saw kids walk into the audition with professional 8x10s. And resume? Well, she had sung with her class in the school Christmas concert. 

I felt calmer about the audition prep, because the youngest children were allowed to sing “Happy Birthday,” and instead of a monologue, they could tell a joke. Annabelle is a whiz at the “interrupting cow” knock-knock joke, which also demonstrates her comedic timing, so we had that routine down pat. 

I wasn’t in the audition room so I had no idea how her performance stacked up against the kids with actual experience. I didn’t expect her to be cast. 

I assumed it would take a while before I heard anything, if I heard anything. 

But a month later, I opened an email with the subject line “THE SOUND OF MUSIC.” Holding my breath, I read, “We would like to offer Annabelle the role of Gretl.” 

I screamed. My husband and Annabelle, who happened to be home sick that day, looked puzzled. 

“ANNABELLE YOU GOT CAST IN THE SOUND OF MUSIC!!!!” (In case you wonder where she got her dramatic inclination.) 

But soon I was in a dither of “I don’t know what I’m doing.” We told our families, but was it OK to tell friends or should we wait until an official announcement? This was the end of March and rehearsals didn’t start until the end of May. What did she need to do to prepare? I wondered whether they would follow the Hollywood model where kids split their roles because of child-work rules. And I wanted to know if there would be matinees and evening shows most days.  

I did not want to become THAT MOM.  

I frantically messaged two of my sorority sisters who had been theatre majors, peppering them with questions. I didn’t want to pester the local producer. My friends love me so I can be a pain. I wasn’t sure the producer would feel the same. 

On the first day of rehearsal, I dutifully packed Annabelle snacks, a bottle of water, her script and a pencil, as the stage manager recommended, and threw in a sketchbook in case her breaks were long. I was prepared to stay there with her. 

I would love to tell you Annabelle just bounced into the room with no reservations, but no.  

I was not supposed to stay. But the assistant stage manager saw Annabelle’s trepidation and let me sit in the corner for introductions. A friend of mine is playing the Mother Abbess. I introduced her to Annabelle so the young actress would see a familiar face. 

Annabelle spoke quietly to the group and said she was feeling “scared.” You can imagine my consternation as I left. Like the first day of kindergarten, I sat around waiting for the call alerting me to her meltdown. In a panic I texted the house manager, who is one of my cheerleaders, asking her to stick her head in the rehearsal room.  A few hours later she texted back: “I saw her. She’s fine.”  

When I picked up Annabelle at the end of rehearsal, she was indeed fine. She bounced out the door with a big smile. The stage manager told me she had shaken off her fear once they started singing. 

We’ve knocked out two weeks of rehearsals. The show opens Friday and she’s still in the cast. While she has moments where she misses me during a long rehearsal, every time I drop her off she’s greeted with a chorus of excited “Hi, Annabelle!” and she gets excited too. I keep telling myself everyone knows she’s a rookie (I did not pull a Joey Tribbiani and enhance her resume) and the theater was prepared to work with her. She has a good team. 

Even if her theatre mom still thinks like a sports mom.  

 

 

Jen Deinlein
Jen Deinlein is a self-professed “Jen of all trades and master of none.” She’s a SAHM to 8- and 5-year-old daughters, a freelance writer (you can also see her work in CPBJ) and head cheerleading coach at Penn State Mont Alto. She and her family live in Guilford Township, Franklin County, with a golf course in the backyard where they frequently rescue lost golf balls. You can reach Jen on Instagram: @groovypq; Twitter: @jlbd77 or by email: [email protected].