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Stage Fright

Chaiky Berger

If this girl was out, then the highlight of the evening and the zing of the show would need to be omitted. And it was all her mother’s fault

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

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Stage Fright

It wasn’t Chana’s fault. It was her mother’s.

“I must approve it before she goes onstage,” was Mrs. Reichman’s passionate request. I couldn’t accept it. Three days before a school production was no time to become aware of a daughter’s obesity issue.

Having directed productions in the past, I had grown adept at casting. It was a feel thing. Not something I could explain to anybody else, but after crafting a script with acutely alive characters, casting was one of my secret joyous parts in play-directing. I’d scan the girls: Who can carry a mature part, a feminine part? Who can fake an evil persona? Who would fit the shoes of a mailwoman, and who could step into the shoes of a little sister?

Play season in any school is like getting accustomed to driving a new car — every year the makes and models of the middos, jealousies, and social dynamics show up in new colors, sizes, and controls. As play director, I’ve learned to step back from these forces and only get involved in extreme cases. The tests of patience, in every room, on every floor and hallway, crowd my already packed schedule. “I must approve her part before she gets onstage,” Mrs. Reichman repeated.

I swallowed. I felt my mouth get horribly dry and saw 30 hours of act and practice blow up in rocket-fast motion. Disappear. And none would ever know. An audience of a thousand. Packed chairs elbow to elbow. And none would know of the hours I had spent. It wasn’t only the stage part; this girl played a large part in the short movie we would show. If she was out, then the highlight of the evening and the zing of the show would need to be omitted. The words bypassed my brain and kicked my stomach. Hard. Kick. Kick.


Working with children is like constantly holding up a mirror to your student. Always showing them how you love what they said, who they are, and where they are going. It is never about me. I’ve learned this lesson so well over the years I’ve been teaching and directing, that even when faced with stacks of papers, or hours of training, I’ve come to pride myself as a teacher who is “so understanding.” Now, I stood to lose quite a lot. Because of one selfish mother. Who was probably totally in the wrong.

If I took the kid’s part out — the leading role — I had exactly three days to replace her. Three days where every minute was neatly arranged side by side like a stack of Tupperware. I had paced myself and was treasuring the advances I’d made against the schedule.

And now this mom was demanding that she “approve” what her daughter “looked” like!

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