What wish would you make for a child who has come to mean something significant to you if the two of you were having to take your leave of each other after spending a year together, working closely?
One of my favorite young actresses, Cate Elefante, just finished her time as part of the Les Misérables US Tour. I have followed Cate since I saw her as “Little Lulu” in Waitress (December 2016). She and her family share generously on social media about her experiences. This has been nice, because I love all things Broadway, and it is fascinating to get a bit of a behind-the-scenes glimpse at how things work on a national tour.
Cate shared on Instagram the backstage festivities among the cast as she closed out her time. There is a point where Maggie Elizabeth May* is giving Cate a speech (it’s the fourth frame at this link). I saw this brief speech on July 28 when it was first posted, and I have thought about it so often since then.
“Most of these people have dreamed of being in this show since we were your age, but if we had a chance to do it all over again, and had a wish to be granted, we wouldn’t wish for one more show. We would wish to be a kid again. And that’s what you get to do and all of you guys get to go do. You get to go home to your garden, and your family, and your school, and your house, and you get to play the best role of all. We will have you forever in our hearts, Cate, but oh my dear girl. Go be a kid, and promise us to never grow up.”
I so envy people with acting and vocal chops. That’s partially because I love performing, and performing tends to attract audiences more when done by people who are good at it.
Although I envy people in theatre for their talent and their opportunities to perform so often, the other part of that life I’m drawn to is the togetherness and sense of unity. Of course I am sure there are dysfunctional casts/crews, everywhere from the 3rd grade end-of-year performance to the most popular shows on Broadway and the variations in between, but I think they are the exception.
Although I can’t equate my experiences as an extra and volunteer for FSU Film with theater, I suspect there are many commonalities. The sense of unity, the spirit of “let’s get this done,” the almost palpable love of the craft of making art is something I have rarely felt in other environments.
I did work with quite a few child actors in my time at the film school. I saw some truly remarkable talent. I don’t know that any of those kids stayed with it, but I often weighed in my mind what tradeoffs they were experiencing. Absences from school, being held to a strict work ethic, the pressure of being directed, breaks in routine. At what point did the attempt to reach the next level of acting success start to erode the benefits of a “normal” childhood?
I appreciate the adult actress acknowledging the tradeoff Cate and her family had made. The first time I watched the speech, I wondered what her finale was going to be. Would it be “I know you’re going to make it big someday”? “I wouldn’t be surprised to see you win a Tony when you grow up”? “Acting will never let you down”?
No. She reminded her that childhood is a precious gift. A gift that most adults who take to the stage nightly quite possibly would want to experience again.
When each of us adults is faced with life “on my own,” there are those moments when the lightness of being a kid again beckons.
Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.)
*If I have misidentified Maggie Elizabeth May, I apologize and hope someone will clarify. Thanks, prosopagnosia, for these little blogging speedbumps.