Saturday, July 25, 2015

And the Oscar Goes To...

Last week our family attended a free concert put on by the college a few block away from our house - my old place of paid employment.  During the summer, the college's Fine Arts Department hosts four outdoor concerts and we like to go because the girls like the music, and they are free, so it gives us some low investment entertainment.  The last concert of the series happened to be a dueling pianos outfit called Deuces Wild.  Having seen them before and being familiar with the dueling pianos concept, I figured it would be a good show, even if it was a PG rated version and the profanity and drinking would be virtually non-existent.

As is typical at these events, our girls wanted to sit as close to the stage as possible, and because variable weather had moved the event indoors, we found ourselves at the front of the auditorium.  We seemed to land right in the "kids area" (or we started it) and soon found ourselves surrounded by kids ranging from 2-12.  One of the pianists took notice of this and made reference to us being the von Trapp family as he segued into "Do Re Mi" - a hit with the under 5 crowd.  That was followed by the other pianist (it's dueling pianos, so there are two of them, get it?) pointing his "deer shiner" in my face and instructing me to get up on stage.  Whilst on stage I was given the opportunity to channel my best Michael Flatley, and Riverdance along to the Irish ditty they played.  I'll be a little critical and say it wasn't my best performance by any means, but there was a respectable round of applause from the crowd of 700+.  I actually learned today, that my PDD (public display of dancing) was the most embarrassing thing I could do as a dad.  Just another Thursday night with the Bruns Family.    

I never participated in organized dramatic endeavors during my school years.  I was too busy attempting to be cool by pretending I was a jock.  In retrospect this was theatrics in its own right, given my lack of any notable athletic skill.  As a parent these days, and especially as a stay-at-home parent, I seem to be getting my shot on the "big stage", even though there isn't really a physical stage (last Thursday notwithstanding).  At times, my life has the tendency to feel like one big movie, or daytime television series, or even an off-broadway (way off) show.  Usually it tends to be a Rom-Com, but sometimes it's an action-packed thriller (usually when we are late needing to get somewhere), a sci-fi horror flick (typically involving scenes in the bathroom), or even a musical (when I just decide to sing everything I say to my kids).  Of course I'm usually cast in the standard role of dad, but also have had significant experience playing some form of royalty - typically prince.  I've dabbled in other roles too - pirate, butler, unicorn owner, shopping patron #2, etc. - in effort to diversify my character portfolio.  I've even had the opportunity to portray a variety of species from the kingdom Animalia, and not just as a voice-over.      

When I'm "in character", anyone with a basic understanding of acceptable social behavior could arguably say that the way I interact with my kids would medically be defined as "bat-shit crazy".  But the kids don't get it, nor do they care.  If they understand what is going on, they think it's relatively hilarious, and though they can be a pretty tough crowd, they can also be pretty forgiving as long as you make a concerted effort.  They won't be overtly critical if my attempt at a British accent takes on more of an Aussie tone.  There is also no fear of flubbing your lines, as our life is essentially a non-rehearsed Saturday Night Live episode starring your's truly in every skit.  Taking a dramatic approach to the day can add an element of fun variety to the otherwise common drudgery of domestic life.  It can also serve as a strategy to try and stay sane in the throes of chaos.  Let's approach this bedwetting scene in a "good cop gone bad" character type.  I will do damn near anything to get my kids to laugh.

The girls haven't necessarily emulated my thespianism, as they've kept similar levels of drama over the years - absurdly high.  If anything, I'm just trying to keep up with their own theatrical displays.  Gus does some pretty emphatic facial expressions, but we usually chalk that up to gas.  It has been fun to watch the older ones assume different character roles while they are playing, as they've definitely started to understand that there is a level of creativity they need to employ to make those characters work.  I definitely hope that they are drawn to theater and performance as they get older, at least mildly, as I feel the skills you learn are essential tools to being a well adjusted person.  Putting yourself out there, especially on a stage, while terrifying, can also serve as an important life lesson in humility and be a huge boost of confidence.  It seems like it would also be really helpful when you need to "fake it to make it", a strategy I employ almost daily.

I think I've always been somewhat of a natural-born performer.  My mom likes to recount how my first public performance was at the ripe old age of 2, when I sang "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" in front of a class of high-schoolers that her friend was substitute teaching (and we wonder why the education system has gotten so bleak).  I've never really been one to shy away from the limelight, especially if it ends in a few laughs, typically at my expense.  I recently read that the typical age at which men stop being embarrassed by their own actions, regardless of their buffoonery, is around 50.  These days, especially with three kids, not much fazes me when I'm out in public.  A few months ago, I actually added "audition for, and get a part in a live theatrical performance" to my list of 40 things to do before I'm 40.  I'm sure they'll turn out in droves if and when that finally happens.

At this point, I can definitely sense that we have some extroverts in our two girls, and I hope that they continue to grow as performers, enjoying the beauty and excitement of creative art.  My hope is that when the light shines on them, they'll have the confidence to assume the role they've been asked to play, even if that light is a "deer shiner".  If, as Shakespeare says, "All the world's a stage, and all men and women are merely players" they best learn how to own that stage.  Sure it will be scary, probably a little embarrassing, and definitely exciting, but that's character building at its best.  And I guess if they want to become famous actors or musicians and want to support their old man in his aging years, that would be alright too.

At times my character requires specific costume.
Other times, more extensive detail is paid to hair...

...and make-up.



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