Follow the children

We got some not so welcome news last week about an hour before I was scheduled to judge auditions for a student talent show at Kiva Elementary School in Paradise Valley, whose distinguished alumni include my hubby James.

I was reminded of a song called “Where Do I Go” from the musical “Hair.” It follows the question “Where do I go?” with the answer “Follow the children.” I knew that watching children perform was just what I needed.

I entered the Kiva cafeteria after school last Tuesday to find it abuzz with doting stage mothers and fathers, and kids with all sorts of performing arts fare – a cello in a hard neon green case, a pink Daisy Rock guitar, tattered costumes a la “Annie” orphans, tumbling mats and more.

I sat at a long table in front of the stage, joined by two fellow judges – including Desert Stages Theatre co-founder and executive director Laurie Cullity, who was quick to introduce herself with a confident handshake and broad smile.

The other judge was Matt Peterson, a 14-year-old student at Mohave Middle School who “founded” the Kiva talent show when he was in 5th grade and vice president of the student council.

Peterson eagerly described his acting ambitions and plans to utilize “YouTube” to make his talents known.

As Peterson described his dreams of heading to Hollywood to pursue television or film work before graduating from high school, I thought of my own daughter’s eagerness to graduate and begin B.F.A. studies in theater.

I hope he’ll stay in school – because his experiences there will likely broaden his horizons and add the depth of character that makes an actor’s performance authentic and compelling – and because childhoods cut short can never be recaptured.

Together we judged fifty performances ranging from fiddling and gymnastics to skits and singing. I was surprised by how many details rushed back from watching my own children’s lessons and recitals.

Bow placement on violin strings. Hand position at the piano. Posture during dance. We weren’t judging on these factors, but I realized while judging that I’ve developed a critical eye over the years (for better or worse).

I admire every single one of the students who took to that stage. It takes guts, and all demonstrated true class and composure. I remember my own modern dance and gymnastics performances at that age, which I’m sure were far from perfect.

Whatever the outcome of auditions – students, parents and teachers should be proud. We rated each performance on a scale of 1-10 based on entertainment value and student preparedness, but there’s more to performance than pleasing judges.

Every child gave it all they had – and it showed. The talent show takes place in March, and I’ve no doubt it’ll feature both polished acts and supportive audience members. I hope I’ll be able to attend.

Next time you have a bad day – even a truly dreadful day – just follow the children. Their smiles will show you the way.

— Lynn

Note: The Kiva Elementary School talent show is Thurs, March 10, at 6pm at Saguaro High School (and is open to the public)

Coming up: Arizona art volunteers, You’ve got Spam!, Grammy winner performs for Valley students

Artwork from Kansas City, Kansas Public Library

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