This weekend my 13 year-old son performed in his school’s production of Mary Poppins, playing the part of the little boy, Michael. There were over 40 middle school students performing, some of whom had never been on a stage before, and the cast only had rehearsals five hours per week for three months. With a few extra long rehearsals toward the end, it amounted to about 80 hours of rehearsal total, which is only two weeks time for a professional cast rehearsing 40 hours per week, and they usually rehearse at least six weeks. So there wasn’t a lot time and there were a lot of beginners in the cast.
And yet, when the curtain came up last night, I was more moved by this production than by professional ones that I have seen, because of the amount of heart and joy that went into this. Given that the cast was all roughly the same age (age 11-13), many of them were the same height, so my son who played a 7 year-old was actually taller than his mother, his older sister, and Mary Poppins. But somehow we believed that he was a little kid. The cast was a fabulous rainbow of races– with Mary Poppins half Asian and half hispanic; George, the father, half Asian and half white; Jane, the daughter, half black and half hispanic, and Bert, part-black. My son and his mother were the only two white leads. There were kids who could hit all the notes perfectly and those who had trouble with pitch. There were strong dancers and kids who looked at their feet. There were kids who really stood out in the chorus and other kids who were happy just to be a quiet townsperson or a toy who came to life. There were kids running lights and kids moving the sets on and off, kids who sold tickets, and kids who organized the costumes, props and sets with teachers.
What I loved about this is that during this show, you couldn’t tell which kids were popular, which kids were friends or not, or which kids were gay or straight. It didn’t matter whose family dislikes Trump or not, who was what race or what religion or spoke what language at home. It didn’t matter ultimately who had the most lines or the least, because in the end, the leads can’t shine if they are not well lit or don’t have their props, or don’t have smiling townspeople behind them. Every single person was essential to the success of the play and every student knew it.
I think about what our society and our greater world would be like if we realized that, like a play, we are all necessary and important, and that it doesn’t matter if our doctor is black or white or Christian or Muslim, but that he or she can help to heal us. Same with the teacher or accountant or firefighter. We waste so much time trying to make ourselves better than others, making the point that we are the lead and others aren’t, but we forget that we need all the players of life, just as in a play, to make our lives work.
To find your world stage, remember that as Shakespeare once said, “All the world’s a stage.” Every single actor and designer and crew person is essential on the stage, as they are metaphorically in real life. Let’s forget how we’re different and start to notice not only how alike we in fact are, but also how much, in the end, we need each other.