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Michael Perry: Role of a lifetime

January 21, 2019
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Michael Perry

Among the ways one proves one is serious about parenting is to spend the second half of one of the better professional football playoff games of the year helping an 11-year-old fill out audition forms at the local children’s theater. While the two teams matriculated the ball up and down the field, I sat beneath anemic fluorescents, cross-referencing my phone calendar with laser-printed notes from my wife and a form provided by the director to establish what scheduling conflicts might exist should the child get a part in the play. It wasn’t exactly 4th and long with the season on the line, but you could say I was playing under pressure.

I wasn’t the only one. The room was a teeming cluster of nervous youngsters and their parents. Everyone walks through the door knowing there aren’t enough parts to go around. It’s a relatively close-knit community and the ratio of excited hugs and hellos to stage-parent maneuvering tips heavily to the happy side of things, but still there are vicarious butterflies.

Life is filled with casting calls whether we’re aware of it or not, so I’m glad my child has an interest in the footlights. It’s good prep for being rejected by the insurance company or a date or fate itself. It has taught her the importance of giving your all in every role, and how much you can learn from the wings. And in those cases where she was fortunate enough to land a larger role, there is the idea of leadership as a position in which the most critical responsibilities exist outside the spotlight: Learn your lines, hit your mark, make difficult things look easy, and if someone else forgets their lines, be prepared to ad lib in such a way that no one in the audience has a clue. Anybody can play the lead; can you be the lead?

Still, I really wanted to watch that football game. Especially when I managed to sneak a peek on my phone just long enough to learn that a spectacular comeback was underway. Yet I didn’t dare be the only parent in the place staring at my phone, giving out the occasional yelp or chair-juke. I say “only parent” because while one doesn’t wish to trade in stereotype, the number of folks at theater tryouts who are really into the NFL is, I venture to say, slimmish, although once while sneaking a Thursday night game on my phone while waiting for dress rehearsal to release, another father I had long known to be nothing but liberally artful slid into the seat beside me and, whispering in desperate joy, said, “You got the game?!?!?”

Come to think of it, the fellow who was filling out the audition sheet across the table from us was wearing a Packers cap, so already my thesis crumbles.

I peeked again while she was in the actual audition. The score was tight. Then my daughter re-emerged and I snapped the phone off. As we crossed the dark parking lot to the car she took my hand, and in that moment I cared neither who got the win nor who got the part, only gratitude for the role of a lifetime; father, no script available, no spotlight required.

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