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2 Waiheke Weekender
The other night, I
had the er, unac-
rience of being
charge of a multi-
tude of little boys,
many of whom
were about to
appear in their frst
Behind the scenes at the island's Artworks
Theatre, there is a rabbit warren of pokey dress-
ing rooms and odd spaces that one wouldn't guess
existed from the auditorium.
And the other night, every single one of these
cubby holes was packed full of children in vari-
ous toy-related costumes, all in a fever of nervous
excitement about the last dress rehearsal before
their opening night... except for my group.
A more relaxed and self-contained crew
couldn't possibly exist. These young boys,
dressed adorably as tiny toy soldiers in resplen-
dent red coats, were as cool as cucumbers; play-
ing cards, reading and doing puzzles or munching
at snacks in a bovine manner while being sporadi-
cally 'shushed' by one parent or another.
Complete silence is an entirely foreign concept
to six-year-olds but they were doing pretty well at
Even after an unexpected blackout caused a
bit of consternation and shrieking in other dress-
ing rooms, being suddenly plunged into complete
darkness failed to make our boys panic.
You would never have known many of them
were about to perform in front of a paying audi-
ence for the frst time.
I am highly practised at spotting nerves, being
that way inclined myself, and I saw not one pale
face, nor one pair of shaking knees.
Perhaps these little guys simply didn't realise
the potential for stuffng things up that exists in
any show, having never experienced the utter
horror of being the cause of the stuff up when it
actually counts. Ignorance can be a fne thing.
And positioned as we were in a sort of corridor
between the stage and other dressing rooms, we
were passed by a never-ending parade of wonder-
fully fresh-faced performers heading for their
moment of glory or returning from it.
It was absolutely awe inspiring to watch what I
would call 'professional child wranglers' in action
and the mostly exemplary behaviour of the chil-
dren being wrangled.
Everything was approached with near mili-
tary precision, which is the only way you can get
80-odd children on and off a stage without some-
one being trampled to death or creating the thun-
derous noise of stampeding wildebeest.
Like an effcient relay, as soon as one group of
trolls, dolls or soliders had done their thing, the
next group were lined up ready to go in the wings
and the group up after them were stationed up the
stairs on high alert.
And here, the rank
amateurs like me could
easily be spotted.
I spent most of my time
ineffectually hissing from
the sidelines about being
quiet and not running...
and defnitely not hopping
up the backstage stairs with
singlets pulled down over
legs to resemble dwarfs;
not part of the script.
And of course, I was
entirely ignored. Children
can always spot a fake.
However the profes-
sionals, those veterans of
many a huge beast of a
production, weren't wast-
ing time with pleas and
They simply demanded
total quiet and complete compliance, in voices
loaded with the authority of experience, and they
Which brings me to the army of regular
Waiheke parents who make these productions
happen behind the scenes.
Every child has to have a costume and some-
one has to make it. And that someone has to be
pretty quick and effcient at it or the task would be
so mammoth as to be impossible.
Then there are the rehearsals schedules, the
prop and gear lists -- which all vary depending on
the child's part, the sets that have to be designed
and constructed, the props that have to be found,
the lighting and sound that has to be plotted and
operated, the publicity that has to be arranged, the
make-up and hair done.
Not to mention the months of work that go into
devising and choreographing each show, which
invariably feature a 'cast of thousands' from tiny
little four and fve-year-olds to teenagers and a
smattering of adults.
Just thinking about it makes me tired. And
yet when I was about my son's age and obses-
sively involved in annual children's shows at my
local theatre, I was completely unaware of all
this hidden work to facilitate my enjoyment. I
just expected it to happen and magically, it did.
And while I have some great memories of taking
part in those shows, I do recall one particular
make up 'lady' as they were called then -- during a
production of Alice in Wonderland -- insisting that
my character of the caterpillar should be painted
green all over.
I later found out that in fact, Lewis Carroll's
caterpillar was most certainly blue, which was
entirely the point of his down-the-rabbit-hole
fantasy world... that things weren't as they
usually were in reality; and I'm afraid I have held
this spectacular wardrobe fail against that poor
woman ever since.
However judging by my son's relaxed
demeanour on eve of his big acting debut, I doubt
he will be suffering any such concerns.
Creative crowd control
The first word
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Adorable toy soldiers in Kaleidoscope's recent
production, The Toylight Zone. Photo Phillipa Karn.
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