As with many of our conversations, it starts with a nonchalant question. This time, my daughter Shannon asked me: Mom, can we go see Spring Awakening on Broadway? Since I worked in the Theater business until very recently, my inner voice was a little conflicted, first thinking: Oh, that might be cool! But then ….. Why? Followed by the bubble above my head with $$$$$!!!!! But my outward response was equally nonchalant. Maybe. We’ll have to see how much the tickets are. Thought bubble: Pray, pray, pray that we are too busy. Or too poor. Or both.
But here is the catch. And it’s a big one. I have let Shannon guide us towards many of our theater experiences lately, because I think it’s really amazing that I am raising a daughter who loves to go see shows – (ALL kinds of shows…), so I really do not want to squash the impulse in any way. It’s exactly what Theaters need, young audiences who are gaining an appreciation and understanding of the culture, and who will grow up to be supporters and enthusiasts. So, as long as it doesn’t bankrupt the family, and we’re all gaining something from the experience, why not?
Shannon recently befriended a young woman who is more enthusiastic about Broadway shows than any 15 year old I have ever met. She is also a mega fan of Santino Fontana, (you may know him as the voice of Hans in that little Disney movie, Frozen. He was also the Prince in Cinderella on Broadway). As all good teenagers seem to do these days, she maintains a fan page for him on social media, but she also sends him homemade cookies. When we went to see him in a show last spring, he greeted her at the stage door like an old friend. How are you? Good to see you. Loved the Maple Bacon cookies!
So, thanks to Broadway-friend, Shannon is now more informed than ever about what’s hot on Broadway, (and what’s not) – plus anywhere Santino Fontana may be appearing in the greater NYC area for the next year.
But back to the Spring Awakening question. I had to say “no” to the preview dates where tickets were $35 and she could go on stage afterwards and meet the cast, because it was a school night. But I found some reasonable tickets on a Saturday in October, and Broadway-friend managed to buy the seat next to ours.
I have always been curious about this show, partially because of the controversy surrounding it, and partially because I had been told once that McCarter Theatre (where I worked for 18 years) – had for a time, been in negotiations to produce the World Premiere many years ago. Ultimately it did not end up premiering in Princeton, NJ, but I felt a connection to it.
So, yeah, I knew loosely that it’s about teenagers…..awakening, shall we say, has sexual themes, plus a myriad of other rebellious teenagery story threads. BUT – I assumed I knew enough and didn’t really need to research it further. Which was sort of true. But uh, maybe not really. Here I was, with two high schoolers, absorbing some pretty intense threads within this show. SPOILER ALERT: It’s all in there. Sexual awakening, sex (on stage), depression, suicide, abortion, homosexuality, molestation, abuse, bullying, did I leave anything out? I mean, by the end of the show, I was crying like a baby. These two girls were more together emotionally than I was!
So my first lesson of the day, was that just because I worked in the theater business did NOT mean that I was all knowing, or more prepared in any way to absorb or discuss this drama. Broadway-friend had seen the show already, so she was making intelligent comparisons and observations based on her wiser-than-her-years knowledge of the material. Ladies and gentlemen, we may have a dramaturg in the making. I just kind of nodded and followed along in awe. Shannon had also studied up on the book, and chimed in with her own insights. Where. Did. They. Come. From.
If this wasn’t enough, perhaps the best part of this whole experience came after the show. Of course we waited at the stage door, and Broadway-friend is an expert at maneuvering her way out quickly and finding the best placement on where to stand……the entire cast came out, and I took photographs of Shannon with one cute boy (and girl) after another, all very humble and generous with their fans. Her program was scrawled full of autographs. (And I was just excited that I got to see Marlee Matlin).
Shannon and her friend had also pre-planned that we hustle around the corner and wait for the cast of “Hamilton” to come out after their show. For those of you keeping score, “Hamilton” is currently the hottest show on Broadway, sold out for months, literally you have to enter a lottery to get a ticket. Me, being such the rule follower, initially thought: Can you do that? Won’t they know you didn’t see the show? Well, I’ll tell you, of course you can, and no, they don’t.
We literally ran to the barriers on the street, where Broadway-friend posed this question: Should I ask them to sign my arm or my face? The mother instinct in me instantly recoiled and thought – not your FACE! How will you ever get it off?? But, I was not her mother. So, she asked them to sign her face. And they did. And it was awesome. The first woman who came out, said: NO! I won’t….. but I’ll sign your hand….And was very sweet. Then, enter the second actor out the door who plays Thomas Jefferson, and he was totally game for the idea, signing her forehead. The next couple of actors also courageously took their black sharpies to various spots on her cheeks, when finally, Anthony Ramos, who plays John Laurens and Philip Hamilton, caught sight of his cast mate signing, and exclaimed: WHAAAAAAAAT!!! Followed by: OH SNAP! Followed by hysterical laughter. And then he got out HIS phone so he could take a photo of HER! As he took it he said: This is goin’ on TWITTER!!!! (But pronounced more like TWITTAAAAHHHHH!!!!!).
As Shannon dutifully snapped photos of her friend with all these actors having such a good time with this fun but crazy idea, I couldn’t help but hand it to Broadway-friend for being so bold, so fearless, and so creative. When I was 15, I don’t think I would have even had the courage to say anything to someone who had been on stage in a Broadway show, let alone ask them to sign my FACE.
The cast of Hamilton, the hottest actors on Broadway, in the hottest show to come around in years, will probably be talking about Broadway-friend for weeks – probably while they’re in the green room at the theater getting coffee. Remember that girl who asked us to sign her FACE? That was amazing! Love her!
As we sat and talked on the train ride home, and I reflected on the amazing day I spent with these two wonderful girls, I thought about the real lesson here. Be bold, people, be bold.
One thought on “A Fall Adventure to Spring Awakening”
This is a lovely story. The lesson is also, to mothers, expose your daughters to difficult subjects and talk, talk, talk.