Zeke has been our song and dance man since birth, always wanting to put on a show. For years, he had friends in CYT (Christian Youth Theater) and begged me to let him join. Knowing the commitment CYT expects from the parent, I kept putting him off.
Two summers ago, I let him attend a CYT Willy Wonka summer camp. “Maybe you can be an Oompa Loompa,” I said.
The next day he told me, “I’m Willy Wonka.”
Last summer, he tried out for the Middle School soccer team, but when the school dropped the JV team, there were more kids than spots. Zeke didn’t make it and I wanted to make the disappointment go away so I said, “Well, now you can do CYT in the fall instead of in the spring.”
Thus began my life of drama. Zeke dove headlong into CYT and dragged me with him. I eventually dragged in Gabe as well. CYT was a major part of our life last year and Zeke loved every minute of it. I loved bits and pieces of it, but ran out of steam by June. It has taken more than a month to clear my head. Classes and auditions start again soon, and Zeke keeps asking me, “when are you going to blog about CYT?
CYT consists of both classes and shows. Each child takes a class one day a week for ten weeks. Zeke had fun in his first class, Aladdin, and loved singing “Friend Like Me” as the Genie in the showcase. CYT put on two main stage productions in the fall: 101 Dalmatians and Mary Poppins. Zeke’s friends from school were in 101 Dalmatians, but the cast was full by the time we signed up so Zeke auditioned for Poppins by singing “Would you like to swing on a star?”
I told him, “This is your first audition and it will be good practice even if you don’t make the show.” (Oh me of little faith.) He made the show and joined his first of three strange ensembles. Practices were on Friday nights and Saturdays for ten weeks, but Zeke did not have to go to all the practices because he was only in three scenes. The week prior to the show was tech week and Zeke had practice every night. Mary Poppins proved to be the biggest and most elaborate production of the year. In it, Zeke played a toy jester from the nursery grown to full size because the children were naughty and Mary Poppins wanted to teach them a lesson. For their scene, Zeke and the other toys sang and danced to the creepy song, “Playing the Game.” The scene frightened the audience’s young children and Blue (Abby’s friend).
(The show photos are courtesy of Amber Trementozzi AMT Photography – CYT official photographer and also my friend.)
Zeke did a terrific job as the jester and when his face broke out because of the red dye in the makeup, he wore a scary mask. (The show must go on.) He was also a naughty child in the full cast number. (There he is…oh, now he’s gone.) I had to pay close attention not to miss him. My favorite moment in Poppins was after opening night when the cast arrived in the lobby to greet family and friends. The cast was thrilled that they had pulled the show off (dress rehearsal had been a disaster). Their joy and excitement burst forth, their energy was palpable. It brought a big smile to my face.
In the midst of Poppins, I was writing a 50,000 word novel for nanowrimo. All my writing was put into the novel instead of the blog. I scrambled from one thing to the next. I was tired after Poppins, but CYT had taken hold and auditions for Fiddler on the Roof (winter show) were coming soon. Fiddler is my favorite musical, so I begged Gabe to audition. His friend, Nathan had been asking Gabe to do CYT since they were in Eighth Grade Drama class together.
I said, “Gabe, there aren’t that many teen boys with beards. They need you. Please do this one show and then I’ll never ask you to do another one again.”
Gabe agreed to take a class and audition for Fiddler. This session, Zeke took an Improv class and got a laugh for his “From your own mother” line during the showcase. Gabe’s class was Honk and he played both Ugly and the Bullfrog for the showcase (The showcase was rescheduled because of snow.) He hammed it up “Warts and All.”
Most of Zeke’s friends auditioned for Aladdin, but I wanted Gabe and Zeke in the same show, For auditions, Zeke sang “A Very Merry Unbirthday” and Gabe sang “Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee (An Actor’s Life for Me).”They both said their monologues and then went to their dance audition. Neither Zeke nor Gabe have had any dance lessons. Zeke learned some dance steps in Poppins, but Gabe’s dance audition was horrendous. When he reenacted it for me in the parking lot, I laughed so hard tears ran down my face.
Gabe received a call back to audition for a speaking role and landed the part of Avram, the bookseller. Zeke made his second bizarre ensemble as a member of the zombie band. During Tevye’s dream scene in the graveyard, Zeke sang mazel tov and played the cymbals. It was hilarious. Zeke was also a village boy in the full cast scenes.
Gabe brought the bad news in Fiddler and had a solo in “The Rumor.” He sang in many ensembles. I loved hearing him sing in the departure scene -Anetevka. Gabe was also Tevye’s understudy and once filled in for Laser Wolf during a practice. He memorized many parts in the script and one night at home did an entire scene acting out five different parts. We were highly entertained.
Gabe’s most miraculous transformation was in dancing. Amazingly, over the course of ten weeks, the choreographer taught him to dance. He danced in “To Life” and in the wedding scene as one of bottle dancers. There were six guys who danced with bottles on their heads. The bottles were not attached, There were no magnets. It was all balance. During the first few performances, one of the bottle dancers would drop his bottle and have to leave the line. My favorite moment from Fiddler was when all six dancers kept their bottles on their heads for the entire dance. They hooped and hollered when they finished, so excited that they had all done it as a team.
(Gabe is on the far right.)
I was exhausted after Fiddler and told Gabe and Zeke we were done for the year.
Then Nathan begged Gabe to do You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown with him. Gabe’s old drama teacher was directing, it was the tenth anniversary celebration, and it would be done by the first week of June. I reluctantly agreed. For the Spring session, Zeke took a news reporter class and was a terrific anchor for the showcase. Gabe was in Hamilton Class and performed a great Rap duet with Teddy during the showcase.
For the Charlie Brown auditions, Zeke sang “Gary, Indiana” and Gabe sang “If I Only Had a Brain.” (My theme song during the Spring shows.) For callbacks, Gabe auditioned for Linus and Schroeder and won the part of Linus. I was thrilled for Gabe, but sad for Zeke because only 18 actors were cast in Charlie Brown. Zeke did not make the cut, but they offered him a part in Honk. (His friends had auditioned for Honk.)
This is where any of my remaining (All the world is NOT a stage) logic went out the window. The rehearsals were in two different locations at the same time, I would be out of town for the entire first weekend of Honk shows, and CYT would not be finished until the end of June. I like to pretend I can make logical decisions as a parent even if it causes my children great disappointment, but I’m all talk.
Zeke was cast in Honk as a featured soloist in the Blizzard Scene, a fish, and a goose in the adventure ensemble. CYT graciously allowed me to chair a committee in Charlie Brown so that I did not have to figure out how to be in two places at once. (Working a committee throughout the rehearsals and shows is a parent requirement.) Dale, Abby, Gabe, and some wonderful friends helped me with transportation complications. Every night during Honk when Zeke lifted up his high for the day, he said, “CYT.” (What’s a mother to do?)
My favorite moment in Charlie Brown besides Gabe’s “My Blanket and Me” scene was during “Book Report.” I worked green room (where the actors stay when not on stage) throughout the show. Towards the end of the scene, Sally, Woodstock, the Stockettes, and Snoopy dash through the green room, down the hall and into the back of the theater. All the characters, save Snoopy are quite small and ran at a sprint. Snoopy loped behind, taking large strides while holding up his net. It was a hilarious moment to watch for those of us backstage.
In Honk, Zeke danced with the fish, marched with the geese, and sang in a blizzard. My favorite moment in Honk was hearing Zeke’s voice ring out loud and true during his solo.
(Zeke is to the left of the girl in the apron.)
Being the drama queen that I am, I collapsed when it was over.