In 1990, at 12 years old, I played Girl in Hartford Children’s Theatre’s production of Mother Hicks. For the uninitiated who won’t be scoring big in TYA Trivia Night this weekend, it is the first in a trilogy of plays by Susan Zeder. The second, a prequel, Taste of Sunrise, is my very favorite TYA play, and the first on my dream list of plays I want to direct one day. The Edge of Peace is the final play in the trilogy. The first time I ever saw the phrase American Alliance for Theatre and Education (AATE) was because of the golden Best Play of the Decade Award sticker on my script. Tomorrow I get on a plane to get myself to conference in Chicago, for an AATE conference chaired by my friends Leigh and Talleri, with whom I shared first-time attendee joy in Minneapolis in what seems to be not so very long ago. Saturday morning I present about the Safe Theatre Project, an idea that I’ve been talking about at conference and working on for several years now. And then Saturday night I see. this. play. So yeah. This weekend wins.
It’s hard to explain to those who’ve never heard of Susan Zeder or this trilogy why this warms me so. I’ve been thinking about the why of it a lot lately. Just recently I’ve become friends with some diehard Harry Potter fans, who have shared with me their Leaky Con antics and written in their blogs and chat windows– in loving, heartfelt detail– their experiences this month attending the final Harry Potter movie. It’s been interesting, getting a glimpse into a fandom that I really didn’t know a lot about and getting to know these incredible, quality people at just this moment when something they love so much has come to a head such a powerful way. I bring this up because I’ve been thinking this week that this trilogy is my Harry Potter. Girl was a huge role to play at an age when I was flirting between childhood and adolescence– and honestly holding on to the childhood as hard as I could. It was a time when so much of who I was to become was coming in snapshots, in and out of focus, every day. I had just re-discovered a little bit of comfort in my own skin after a traumatic move from my beloved Ohio and a difficult sixth grade year. This was the production that ultimately led me to Wethersfield Teen Theater Company, to what was then called the Greater Hartford Academy of Performing Arts, to my first paying job (as a performer for Looking In Theater), and to so many people that became such an important part of my growing up, many of whom are just as dear to me today.
Mother Hicks was the event in my life that, ultimately, put me on a path of hopeless devotion to theatre for young audiences, and I am so especially thrilled to know I will be seeing it with my colleagues and partners in crime at AATE. I’ve always said that my favorite thing about AATE conferences is just hanging out with amazing people who all know who’ve heard of Nellie McCaslin (and completely understand when I share that I burst into tears when I met her). It is there, and at least until recently, only there, really– that I’ve felt like a fangirl in the best sense of the word. I’m such a fan of the work of the amazing members of AATE, who advocate for theatre and education all year long and have invited me along to play.
Question for the World: What’s the production that changed your life?