I don’t really like kids. This may seem paradoxical for someone who has four of them, but it’s the truth. I can remember distinctly co-hosting a birthday party for a bunch of 6 or 7 year olds with my lovely wife some 20 years ago and feeling totally overwhelmed and freaked out. I still have flashbacks about that when any of my kids has a bunch of pals around and the chaos factor starts rising.
One side effect of my son’s involvement in local theater has been meeting a bunch of kids – his fellow ensemble members – who may be just delightful enough to cure me of my child anxiety. The recent production of “A Christmas Carol” had a great gaggle of talented kids who were always fun to be around, generally well-behaved and imaginative, and all well-able to hold an intelligent, respectful conversation with an adult.
I don’t know if it’s a chicken/egg kind of thing: kids with certain qualities are attracted to theater or working in theater builds certain characteristics in children. Whichever way it is, it made hanging around with them when the production was running and at the final cast party entertaining and fun. From the quiet and calm intelligence of Lillie Izo to the happy-go-lucky attitude of Xavier Dobbins, the assertive and sunny personality of Hanna Clinton to the mischieviousness that lies behind the stoic exterior of Charie Dacus, it was a fine group of new pals for Cooper.
Of course, Eric Pastore and Susie Redling are practically old Theatre IV veterans at this point so their engaging professionalism was expected. However, I hadn’t met Jessie Jennison before this show and she is perhaps the single most enchanting teenager I’ve ever met (close race with Ali Thidodeau who, since turning 18, has graduated from the ranks of wonder-teens to those of simply fabulous young women).
I am not closely acquainted with the cast of “Black Nativity” but if the incredible dancers that make up that cast are even half as mature and interesting as they appear on stage, then they are additional examples of the cool theater kids phenomena exemplified by the “ACC” crew. Yet another reason to support local theater: building character in another generation of performers. Or at least helping to make them more tolerable to be around.