Sunday, January 20, 2013

Parent's Perspective - A Guest Blog by Cynthia House Nooney

On a rainy Saturday afternoon last month, I escorted my twin nine-year-old boys and one of their friends to Berkeley Rep’s new Osher Theater, where we’d purchased tickets to see Tales of Olympus. Even though December is the busiest month of all and I had a ton of other things to accomplish, I was thrilled to be taking them to this debut musical – not that I let on to that, though; I knew my best bet was to act blasé about it. I’ve learned not to project my hopes and interests onto my children. That will get me absolutely nowhere. My plan was to covertly observe their expressions during the show – just in case, you know – they weren’t willing to say much afterward. They are nine after all – big fourth-graders who aren’t as eager to reveal their innermost thoughts and preferences like they once were. 
             Have I mentioned that my boys are highly energetic and active? They’re not exactly inclined to sit quietly for short periods, let alone what they might perceive to be lengthy, so once we were seated (very nicely by a staff member, I might add, who didn’t appear peeved in the least that we were five minutes late), I exhaled and crossed my fingers until intermission, when not one of my charges asked to leave. I smiled inside and gave myself a mental high five. In the corridor, where the boys munched on cookies, I pretended not to overhear their conversations. “Who do you like best in the play?” one of them asked. “Hermes is my favorite,” answered one. “Jason is mine,” said another. “But I like Zeus too.”
The three of them huddled in a corner together, one rapping the way Hermes had done earlier on stage, the other two singing Don’t Swallow The Babies, a rollicking fun song that Zeus had just performed.
Did the playwright have my boys in mind when he wrote Tales of Olympus? All three of my small attendees were captivated from the beginning, following the action with huge, engaged eyes. They laughed and cheered right along with Jason (a “bard” in training), and related to his reluctance, never catching on to the fact that they were learning about Greek mythology at the same time.
The Olympus cast tells the story of Jason and the Golden Fleece.
“I wish I could fly!” one of my twins exclaimed after the play ended. “I wish I could go to Mount Olympus!” said his brother. Their friend, typically more reserved than my boys, declared his desire to go back in time, like Jason had. Collectively, they discussed their delight with the way Jason told the Golden Fleece story. “But the Icarus story was so cool, too! And Zeus’s!”
When cast members greeted them immediately after the show and autographed complimentary posters, the boys held back smiles and did their best to act nonchalant – but once inside our car, they compared signatures and commented on Aphrodite’s beauty and Athena’s funny sarcasm.
Although I tried not to ask questions on the way home, I couldn’t resist at least one: “What was your favorite part?” My oldest twin answered quickly. “That’s hard to say, Mom, it was all so good! Very adventurous and exciting. I’m going to tell everyone in my class to go!”
It wasn’t until the next day that I discovered the actor who played Hermes is also the writer of the musical. When I shared this fact with my sons, their eyes became as huge as they were during the show. “Are you serious? How did he do that?!”
I wasn’t sure how to answer adequately enough (although plenty of thoughts came to mind: Min Kahng clearly has a great imagination, he’s supremely talented, and hardworking), but instead, we all just shook our heads in deep admiration and decided where to hang up their posters.
Cynthia House Nooney has recently joined the board of Bay Area Children's Theatre.