Acting Up with the Kids / by Travis Baker

I’ve been very lucky as a father to enjoy a wide range of activities with my two lads, Zane (14) and Augi (10).  Along with their mom, Holly (age withheld because no one believes she’s 48), we’ve gone camping, skiing, hiking, mountain bike riding, swimming, skating, sledding, zip-lining, fishing, boating, and a whole range of other activities. We’ve been to Hawaii, Texas, Washington, Washington DC, Georgia, Virginia, Florida and even Canada. We’ve visited museums, national parks, memorials and lots, and lots, of hockey rinks. We’ve seen the Bruins play at TD Garden, the Lion King on Broadway and Yo Yo Ma at the Rio Grande. Tonight, however, the boys and I get to share something very special, opening night!

There’s nothing like an opening night, when months and months and sometimes years of preparation, practice and rehearsal is unleashed upon an audience. As a playwright, it’s up there with Christmas morning and birthday dinner. As an actor, well, it’s been quite a long time since the last opening night because it’s been quite a long time since I’ve acted. My last trek across the boards, as the Sherriff in the Penobscot Theatre Company’s production of August: Osage County, I missed opening night because I fell through a hole in the floor, broke four ribs and punctured a lung. Made it back the second week though! Luckily, there’s no holes in the ground at Indian Point State Park in Brewer where the Ten Bucks Theatre Co. will present Shakespeare’s Richard III this weekend and I’ll get to take a curtain call standing beside Zane and Augi and Joe (no relation but a fine fellow indeed – I kill him in Act I) soaking up an actor’s reward for the hours and hours of toil – applause!

The applause has been hard earned and come at some cost. Augi and I blame Zane for the beautiful summer days spent inside the rehearsal room, for the water park not visited and the summer hockey game not played because we had tech that night.

Zane, a freshman at John Bapst HS this fall, was the one who told us he was going to audition for the show way back in March. I went along and auditioned also because, well, I was going to end up being there a lot anyway so I might as well do something. (Watching your kid play sports is one thing, there’s always the action and unpredictability of the game to keep you entertained, watching your kid do the same scene over and over and over again takes a serious toll and I tip my cap to all the theatre parents out there who support their kids by doing so.) Really, Augi, soon to be a 5th grader at Asa Adams Elementary in Orono, should blame his dad because his dad was the one who mentioned to the director that if they needed a younger brother to the Prince, Zane happened to have one. Sorry kid!

It makes perfect sense that the boys would be drawn to the stage. My introduction to the theatre came when my sister was cast as Gretel in The Sound of Music. I wasn’t in that show but I made darn sure I was in the next one. The people who would become Zane and Augi’s parents both moved to New York in 1994 to pursue their dreams and met six years later doing a show for Three Legged Dog. Mom played a dominatrix and dad was a drug-dealer. They got to talking on an elevator ride up to rehearsal. It was supposed to be a two-week fling. 18 years later and they live in Maine, mom’s using a paddle to explore the river across the street and dad’s re-doing the artwork for a children’s book while the boys are making costumes out of stuff they found in the basement for a You Tube video. Times do change.

Young Warriors

I shouldn’t say the experience has been as tough as I might be alluding to. They got to hang out at the Bangor Mall a lot, got to know the people at Game Stop and Olympia Sports real well and earned extra popsicles and pretzels for their effort. The Director, Daniel Hanchrow, an experienced leader of young actors, has been great with the lads and the cast has been supportive, understanding, encouraging and, when necessary, served out a few stern reminders to put knives and brothers down and keep quiet backstage. For their part, both boys have shown both talent and professional attitudes towards finding their characters and delivering their stories to an audience. They learned their lines, made their entrances, asked appropriate questions, tried new directions, did the warm-up exercise and fight-calls, took their notes, pushed their voices to the back of the hill and, aside from the bugs, hardly complained about late-nights or missed afternoons with friends at all. They’ve been real pros, I must say, and I’d be happy to work with them again. But who knows if that will ever happen?

Zane is closer to driving age than being the kid who ran across the beach with his hands clawed out like a T-rex, chasing seagulls and roaring loud! Augi’s almost as tall as his mom these days and will have a schedule packed with choir, band, hockey and trips to the flea-market when school starts up. I’ll be writing and painting and subbing and Holly will be off to Iceland or Costa Rica or Cuba or someplace. Moments together are rarer and rarer it seems and should be treasured even more for being so dear.

We are not the only family that will appear on-stage together tonight. There are spouses, sisters, and  Lisnets: Ron, Julie and Natalie. Of course, as many a theatre geek will tell you, over the course of a show a cast becomes a family. It’s been a wonderful experience joining this one.

 And so, I do ask that you forgive me if, tonight, when the Lord Cardinal escorts Prince Edward on stage to meet up with his Uncle Gloucester, then gets himself gone with all due haste to bring the Young Duke of York to meet his brother and then stands apart as the princes speak their parts, you will forgive me, I beg you, if a smile creeps across my face, quite out of character, for I am so very proud of these guys, the adventure they’ve embraced and the work we’ve done together.

Richard III opens tonight at Indian Point State Park in Brewer. 6 pm. Tickets are $10 and available at the park or online:  https://richardiii.brownpapertickets.com/

Bring a camp chair and some bug spray!

Show continues through Sunday. The following weekend we’ll be at the Orono Public Library and finish the run at Fort Knox. More info at: http://www.tenbuckstheatre.org/current_production/

 

 

The Young Princes