The greatest thing about being an adult is watching the next generation make its way through the same stuff I did 30 years ago.
On Saturday night, my mom and I met my brother and his son to see my niece perform in a play.
She’s in the drama department at the same high school that I went to. She walks across the same stage I walked on when I was her age. Only she’s braver than I was.
The few roles I got always fell into my lap when other students were ill or missing. My niece goes after her parts, so she had a real role in a real play. And she was delightful to watch.
My niece is very self-possessed. She stayed in character from start to finish, despite an imposing front row of family.
For maximum viewing, the audience was seated in a black box format with about a third of the chairs actually on the stage, so we were right there, in plain sight. Seriously, I could have reached my toe out and touched the back of her leg once or twice. I don’t know how she kept a straight face. But she did.
When I was in high school drama, I always lost myself on stage, particularly when it wasn’t my turn to speak. I was far too aware of my body and couldn’t relax into my characters.
I would deliver a line and, in the brief pause between my part and someone else’s, I would imagine the audience was sizing me up. And out. I felt self-conscious for being overweight. I thought that was the only thing they could see. I would turn beet red and lose my lines.
My niece, of course, has no such dilemma. She’s a gazelle – tall, svelte, gorgeous and confident. She knew her lines and her silences. She just became the character and told the story with her whole self. I envy her ability to do that.
She even had to fall down and crash her body into a metal trashcan at one point. If I hadn’t known ahead of time, I might have thought it was a real accident instead of something planned.
She played the wife of a very intense and brooding husband who drank too much and loved too little. His character wasn’t really very nice to hers.
They were both very convincing in their roles, so I found myself in the lobby afterward telling my niece that if she ever got involved with someone like that, I’d have to kill him. She accepted the comment politely, but I think she had probably already heard it from someone else in the family.
It’s funny to feel so protective of my niece, because certainly one of the best things about her is how completely she can already take care of herself. She’s so much more than I was at sixteen. She has that boundless energy that I never had and she manages to bottle it for just the right occasions.
She’s an old soul I think, already sensitive to others’ needs, but smart about her own. What fun it is to see her living her life so much more efficiently than I lived that part of mine.
Saturday’s show was closing night, so we didn’t get a lot of time with her before my brother had to whisk her away to the cast party. I remember those evenings. You felt electrified by your performance, relieved to finally finish it and eager to celebrate with your fellow actors. It was easy to let her go for that.
We hugged her, said “congratulations” and then took our big proud smiles home. What a joy!