The after-school program at my kids’ school, staged a theater extravaganza last week, an adaptation of “Alice In Wonderland,” for which we scrounged up supplies and made costumes out of whatever was at hand. And by “we” I mean Zoe, the woman who has run the program for the past twenty or so years; a fantastic British lady who is naturally great with children, and even stranger, great with mine. She does crafts, sewing and painting with the girls (and the boys by occasionally bribing them with candy) with her helpers Robyn and Jennifer and organizes talent shows, plays and other after-school events. Zoe is so great, that when I come even a minute early the kids looked disappointed to see me. Or maybe that’s just a comment on my parenting skills.
There were two shows, a morning show for the school and a 4:30 show for the parents, and naturally being a potential Joan Crawford-style stage mother, I went to both. Because of the random costumes available for the kids, this Alice in Wonderland featured a dream including Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, ballerina butterflies and even E.T., complete with mask, glowing finger and rotary phone. And Alice in Wonderland already seemed like it was written under the influence of LSD.My older son David (8) shone as the Mad Hatter, the second viewing even more impressive than the first, showing a comedic range, vocal depth and physicality reflecting a deep understanding of character. Christopher Isherwood at the New York Times says, “Go. Go now. Do not collect 200 dollars, just go see this Mad Hatter. It is the performance of a lifetime.” Or at least that was the review I pictured in my head.
My other son Samson had two different roles, one as a rabbit at the tea party, not the main rabbit of the “I’m late, I’m late…” fame, that went to a rather adorable girl in silver leggings who kept losing her bunny slippers, only adding to her appeal. The drama increased for the second show, as Sam was already dressed as Tweedle Dum, when his wiggly tooth suddenly decided to come out with a large splash of blood and gore, all of which had to be washed off moments before curtain. That’s show-business kid.
Samson and the kid playing Tweedle Dee had gigantic pillows under their shirts and started bumping bellies to signify clumsiness and oafishness. However my son (true to his name) had a little too much adrenaline coursing through his young thespian veins and bumped the other, smaller kid so hard that he fell on the ground and began to cry, proceeding to run offstage. Sam gazed off after him, for what seemed like hours, but may have been twenty seconds, horrified at having hurt the child and looking as if he was about to cry.
Joan Crawford (me) was seconds away from running onstage from the audience, donning the hat and pillow costume and joining the now lonesome Tweedle Dum onstage. Fortunately the real Tweedle Dum, still sniffling, managed to get back on and resume his duties like a young Laurence Olivier, and finish the show, with Samson bumping into him more lightly this time. I don’t know what Zoe bribed him with backstage, but whatever it was trumped his injuries, and on with the show!
The kids loved the opportunity to perform for their friends and family, and I was so proud of all of them, even the kids that weren’t mine, because I love this community so much… predictably I was now crying, thinking about how much we all love our kids, and how involved many Malibu parents are because they are lucky enough to have flexible jobs and time to volunteer. I drove my kids home, still misty-eyed, and within moments my two little angels were punching each other in the backseat (without the benefit of cushion padding) and screaming and behold, all of my sentimentality disappeared, just like Alice down the rabbit hole.