tales of a girl in the city

mars 16, 2004

On Children's Theater

To the person who found my blog while searching for, "cruel female torture of having nether holes fucked by horse" Hey. Welcome. Today's topic will be children's theater. So. Maybe tomorrow.


I am never going to hire a clown for a child's birthday party. You shouldn't either.

Though ten months of touring the country as a performer of children's theater doesn't qualify me as a clown per se, it gets me damn close. Puts me, I would say, on the cusp of clown-dom. Clownishness. Whatever. Anyway, I'm closer than most people I know. And that means I understand on a personal level that all people whose job it is to dress up in really stupid outfits and entertain other people's children are a few zippities short of a doo-dah. No exceptions.

Having recently been attending parties which require me to "mingle," I have been badgered rather often into revealing details about my past.

Here in NYC you meet a lot of people who do pretty much the same thing: lots of bankers, lots of lawyers, lots of advertising people, marketers, publishers, etc. Their jobs are awesome as far as I'm concerned--they actually make money. But, their careers do not necessarily yield much in the way of "entertaining party stories." So when it is my turn to say what I do, people get all interested. And then, when they ask the inevitable, "Have I seen you in anything?" (annoying) and I say, "Not unless you have children," they get all giddy.


"You did children's theater? Oh, that's so sweet. John, she did children's theater. Isn't that just the sweetest thing?"

"I did two tours," I will say, "First I went out with a musical called Reading Rainbow based on the
tv show with Lavar Burton. Then I did a musical based on The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I played The White Witch."

"I loved those books. C.S. Lewis, right? And Reading Rainbow! Did you get to sing that great theme song?" my companions will ask.

"How'd that song go?" another one of them will chime in.

"Will you sing it for us?" a third one will say, excitedly.

"No!" I will snap. It is at this point that the back of my neck will start to tingle.

"Oh, come on!" they'll continue, beginning to sing it now themselves, "Butterfly in the sky...."

"STOP IT!" I will say too loudly.

They'll sense the desperation in my voice.

"Don't," I'll say, calmed down by their alarmed looks. "Don't sing it. Sorry. But don't. It's a horrible song. I sang it 285 times. I hate it. Don't sing it."

This is when the trouble starts.

Even two years after my last stint as The White Witch in the musical version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I still cannot talk about the experience without feeling myself lapse just the tiniest bit back into the Dr. Pepper-addicted, truck-driving, Motel 6-inhabiting, rash-covered, sweatpant-wearing, child-hating LUNATIC that I was then.

"Tell us everything about it. Gosh, how interesting! Were the children just the most adorable? Their enthusiasm! And introducing them to the theater!"

What the party-goers would like to hear at this point is a sunny tale of rosy-cheeked toddlers whose first theater-going experience involved me skipping around stage a la Julie Andrews.

What the party-goers would NOT like to hear is that, during our week of performances in New Orleans, our Aslan, the play's noble lion/Christ-figure, ran off the stage at least once every performance to vomit in a trashcan because he was DRUNK. For example.

But, truth be told, there was a rash-less, vomit-free happy day somewhere amongst the ten months of touring.

I believe it was a Monday. I believe it was the first day of the job. If memory serves, I finished the show, walked off stage, and said to the bluebird who had just landed on my shoulder, "I am the luckiest person in the whole world. I get paid to play pretend. I get paid to make children laugh. Oh, joy. Oh, rapture!"

End Scene.

For the benefit of these nice people, then--who, I understand, are really just trying to make conversation--I will recount it. Especially the part about feeling like the luckiest person alive. They eat that part up.

"Gosh," my rapt party-audience will say, "you must love children."

At this point, the back of my neck will start to burn and I'll begin to taste peanuts. My mind will flash back to a day near the end of tour. To a certain Denny's in Ohio. To a particular slice of peanut butter pie.

I will remember it like it was yesterday. I recall gasping for air, struggling to form words while sobbing. I see distinctly the tears that plopped, shining, onto the surface of my pie. We have to get her out of here, I hear someone say in my memory. I cry harder, shoveling down larger mouthfuls of salty-wet, gooey dessert.

"I just wanted to eat my pie. Without them here," I remember gasping pathetically. "Why'd they have to come here? I just wanted to eat pie."

The cause of my complete breakdown?

I was seated too near a children's birthday party.


Looking into the eyes of my party companions, I am tempted to tell them about this haunting peanut memory--fucking children and their fucking laughter, I am tempted to say.

But, I reign myself in (I can do that now, it's been two years). Instead, I make up something bright and cheery about how I hugged kids outside the stage door right before every performance.

What they'll never know is that, in reality, my pre-show ritual went something like this:

Insane Domineering Grimace-Shaped Stage Manager Mimi: So! Is everybody ready to have a good time?

Me, standing backstage in a huge polka-dot dress *quietly, under my breath*: Don't fucking do it! Don't do it, Mimi. I asked you not to do it!

2,000 Screaming Children: Yeah!!

Me *still quietly*: Mimi. Come on Mimi. They said, "Yes." Leave it at that. Come on. You promised.

Insane Grimace Stage Manager: That didn't sound very excited to me. Let's try that again. Is everybody ready to have a good time?

Me: *gasp*

2,000 Screaming Children: Yeah!!!!! AAAAhh!!!!! Yeeee!!!!! Yayyyy!!!!!! YeEEEEEEeeees!!!

Me *shouting now*: I asked you not to do it! Mimi! Bitch! Fucking Mimi! I'll fucking fuck your shit up! I know where you sleep! You know I do!

It drove me crazy, all of their cheery noise. I'm being totally serious. I did that show something like 285 times almost EVERY DAY for six months. And by show number 78 or so, that yelling ritual thing Mimi did at the beginning of every single ate at my soul.

Around show number 179 it actually made me weep.

The kids would be screaming in their seats for the show to start. Tears would be streaming down my face. The music would begin; my cue to clop--in my grey Aerosole ugly costume shoes--out onto the stage. Wiping snot from my nose with the sleeve of my huge blue and white polka-dot dress, I would sit in an enormous purple plastic chair. In the dark. Still crying, waiting for the spotlight. Children tittering in their seats.

The spotlight would come on.

I could see the demons in the audience now. A fat kid in the front row would be standing on his head, legs shooting up from his red-velvet seat. His teacher would be leaning over to him, whispering loudly that he should sit "like a good boy."

Sniffling, miserable, I would begin: Butterfly *snuffle* in the sky....

A question from one of the party-goers in NYC brings me back to the present.

"Tell us more. It sounds so wonderful!"