My mother recently came to see me in a production of Bye Bye Birdie. I had the opportunity to play the role of Harry MacAfee, the perplexed father of Kim and a role originated by Paul Lynde. I got to sing “Kids!” and “Hymn for a Sunday Evening” (“Ed Sullivan”) and be bombastic and utterly ridiculous.
I’ve been doing community theatre for about 7 years, but this was the first time my mother made the trek from out of state to see me. I knew that there was a strong chance she would make the trip, given that Bye Bye Birdie is one of her favorite musicals. My mother is in her 70’s and travel is sometimes difficult for her.
I could tell she enjoyed the performance. I made a big deal about her coming to the show to my cast mates, and they were welcoming and friendly. My mother commented on how much she enjoyed meeting everyone. She was particularly excited when she got to have her picture taken with the actor who played Conrad Birdie.
That was two weeks ago. My mother called me today, again raving about the show and her experience attending a community theatre. It was far better than she could have ever imagined. These weren’t professional actors, but everyone approached their roles with commitment and energy. She was completely charmed and wanting to know when I planned to do another one.
She also said something else: Watching me on stage changed how she thinks of me. I’ve always leaned towards having an introverted personality and that is how she tends to think of me. To her, I have been her son who has been anxious and shy in most social situations.
But onstage, I was something else entirely. I was fearless and outgoing. I reveled being the center of attention. There wasn’t the least bit of anxiety or introversion present in my performance. She said she was thoroughly impressed and surprised.
Community theatre has become a second home for me. The number of friendships I have developed is incalculable and the opportunities to explore my own performance talents have thoroughly enriched my life. And it also gave a 51-year man and chance to surprise and impress his 77-year-old mother.
Title Photo: Steven Winston