I’ve never written for kids before, so the audition process was a revelation. Dorothy, Michael and I had three days to accommodate everybody.
Kids smiled for photos, holding nametags under their chins. They sang a cappela, just stood on the edge of the stage and sang. The songs linger. I can see the happy little bluebirds fly and I know that the sun’ll come out, tomorrow. I might not want to run into raindrops and kittens for a while.
Some came in soft jazz shoes and gave us a little shuffle. One girl had tapped since birth. Some were gymnasts, performing bendovers and cartwheels.
They took direction well. Dorothy would say, “These are her favorite things, not her almost favorite or her maybe favorite but her favorite! The change in delivery was immediate.
The greatest thrill for me was hearing them tear into the dialogue. It’s easier to sing, I think, than read. Often voices that belt out a song disappear when faced with words, but all of the kids read with intelligence.
Then we counted. Nineteen girls and three boys (count them, three!) had signed up.
Why more boys don’t show up is a mystery. There’s the summer lure of soccer, boy scout camp, and swim teams, but hey, girls like soccer, girl scout camp, and swimming, too. Perhaps, kids segregate themselves into gender groups when they are eight to twelve years old. I don’t know. I do know that making the male characters female was a pretty good move.
Nineteen girls meant more changes. Wiley is now Wilhemina (call me Willy) Weasel. The weasels pride themselves as being the “mean girls.”
However, thanks to the three extraordinarily talented boys, Toad is still a boastful and none too bright gentleman, and his lawyer, who gave us a spirited rendition of Return to Sender, is male, too. Wilmer is still Wilmer, played by a young man who let us know that the finish to his song was going “to be amazing,” which it was.
By the fourth day, one girl’s vacation plans took her out of the show, which means more rewrites to do. I suspect there will be more throughout the summer.
So much of writing is sitting in front of the computer, all alone, without hearing the words aloud, making changes and hoping that they’re the right ones, hoping that a reader or producer will like the finished project Somehow, Someday, Somewhere!
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