The following exchange occurs near the beginning of the movie “Shakespeare in Love”:
Philip Henslowe: Mr. Fennyman, allow me to explain about the theatre business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster.
Hugh Fennyman: So what do we do?
Philip Henslowe: Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well.
Hugh Fennyman: How?
Philip Henslowe: I don't know. It's a mystery.
It’s not really a mystery. It’s more like a miracle. (And, of course, only a producer could get away with saying “we do nothing.”) I was lucky enough to witness such a miracle over the last few weeks.
My twelve year-old daughter Anna, had been given the opportunity to help bring a new work to life for the first time in a professional setting. She had been invited to perform as part of the Youth Ensemble in "Alice" at Wheelock Family Theatre. Our job as parents was to make our children available for rehearsals in an ever changing environment. None of us could fully anticipate what we were getting ourselves into.
We felt comfortable heading into the unknown because Anna had performed in Wheelock’s production of The Hobbit last fall. We knew that the atmosphere at WFT was professional, but mindful of the limitations of young performers - they did their best to limit the long hours and to allow the kids to get home at a reasonable hour on school nights. We also knew that Alice had been written and was to be directed by Andrew Barbato. Andrew was Bilbo last year and we knew him to be a very talented artist with a unique vision.
From the first table read it was evident that there was real brilliance in what Andrew had written and real talent among the performers assembled. At times, though, it really did seem like the obstacles to bringing it to life were insurmountable and disaster was imminent. Schedules, scripts and blocking changed by the day and sometimes by the hour. There never seemed to be enough time to accomplish everything. But somehow by the final dress rehearsal the cast and crew were able to present something close to Andrew’s vision. There was no mystery to how success was achieved. The miracle was brought about by the hard work and dedication of everyone involved. Andrew kept asking the cast to give more of themselves and they rose to the occasion every single time. It was amazing to watch it all happen.
The experience of being able to work with seasoned professionals to put together a new show is something Anna will be able to carry with her always. All of the adults in the cast, especially Maritza Bostic (Alice) and Aubin Wise (The White Queen), treated the ensemble like valuable members of the team.
There were some disappointments. Anna’s role (and that of all of the Youth Ensemble) was diminished from the original script. She didn’t get to sing at all - which is what she enjoys doing most. We told her, “That’s show biz. You just have to go out and do the best you can with whatever they ask you to do.” She did that to the best of her ability and she can be proud of the outcome, as can everyone involved.