I was lucky enough to be a discussion group leader, which is the person that takes a group into a discussion right after they finish their adjudication. It was such a rewarding experience. It was amazing getting to lead the kids in a discussion about how they were feeling about the whole process, why they felt that way, and how they were going to implement the adjudicators notes into their show. Kids are smart and sometimes I think we don’t give them enough credit. They can handle constructive criticism and they can handle pressure. All the kids that I got to chat with were lovely and well rounded. I also taught Advanced Acting classes on Saturday afternoon and had a blast. These kids are really special.
The kids at JTF are given so many fabulous opportunities. They had a Q&A with cast members from Newsies as well as the Pathways to Success chat where former JTF students who now have successful performing careers come back to talk about their success. Alan Menken was given the JTF Award and was so honored. Afterwards he was placed on a chair and given a surprise performance of “Be Our Guest” by a huge group of kids. I wish everyone in the world could have been there to see the look of surprise and tears on Alan’s face. I cried too, not that that was anything new by this point.
We were even introduced to 9 year old Eli from Marietta, GA who spearheaded a fundraising effort at his school for Sandy victims in East Rockaway. Eli’s school raised $12,000 for the schools and was the cutest little peanut I’ve ever seen. And yes, I cried when they showed the video that he made about raising money. And don’t forget when he said that his favorite fundraising activity was making Origami. Yep. He raised $98 by making and selling Origami. SOMEBODY BRING ME THIS CHILD!!
The Junior Theatre Festival is so special and I’m so honored to be a part of it every year. There is no way to accurately capture what it’s like in that giant convention center turned theatre when everyone is there. The festival ended with “Seasons of Love” sung by everyone. (click to watch) It was a spectacular way to end the weekend. I’m looking forward to next year!!
Once I had committed to doing the reading my inbox was filled with emails with the script and music and people asking for my information and yadda yadda yadda. All great things to bombarded with. And then, near the bottom of one of the emails from the composer there was a lone question. It read:
Do you by any chance play the guitar or ukulele?
Now, I have many gifts in life, but playing instruments isn’t really one of them. I am a fair piano player but that’s about it. When I was a kid I played the guitar but then I broke a string and my mom never replaced it so I stopped playing. I know, I know. Silly Mommy. But then when I did Mamma Mia in 2006, there is a scene where Sophie has to play the guitar on stage. The guitar player for the show taught me the four or five chords for the song and I did pretty well with it. However, if you were to put a gun to my head and ask me to play it for you now, I would die a quick death because my retention level is horrendous when it comes to stuff like that.
So naturally I responded with:
I play a little! :) :)
What? Way to go Amanda. Sure, telling them you play “a little” isn’t technically incorrect. You have played a “little” amount in your life. You knew a “little” amount of chords in 2006. Your natural talent is quite a “little” amount in regards to playing any string instrument. Good job. And stop using so many freaking smiley faces! That doesn’t make it better! Luckily, Rob is extremely gifted musically and knows how to play. He said, “The ukulele is easy! I’ll teach you!” Yeah Rob. Easy for people with the type of musical gifts that I do not possess.
Rob just happened to be borrowing our fried Lauren’s ukulele this week for a recording so he printed out a chord sheet and started showing me the four chords that I needed for the song in the show. The strangest thing happened. I was able to do it. I’ve never experienced anything like it. It was simple. And not only did it feel simple, but it all stayed in my head. I didn’t even have to think about it. It just made sense.
Instantly I’m picturing myself as a full blown rockstar rocking alongside Pete Townshend and Slash. They are shredding away on their guitars as they make way for my ukulele solo. I’m entering the stage from above as I’m dropped down slowly into the fog from the fog machines. And there are fireworks. Clearly I’m a gifted musician. How could I have gone almost 31 years without knowing that this musical gift lied inside me like a dormant beast awaiting to be aroused?? Obviously my life was just starting.
Once the high of mastering four chords wore off, I started thinking about my accomplishments. Obviously no one has ever mastered the ukulele as fast as I did. Right? Right?? It was just so easy. The neck is so small that my hands don’t have to reach too much and the simplicity of only four strings is great. I mean, who needs those pesky two other strings! It’s almost as if the ukulele was made for kids!
Wait. What? Made for kids? Is this why I’m so good at it? Are you telling me that I have mastered the recorder of the string instruments at 31? Great. Just great.
Despite the fact that I may have just picked up a child’s instrument, I still feel pretty accomplished, albeit a little less than I initially thought. Maybe Pete and Slash will have to wait. The important thing is that I couldn’t play the ukulele on Sunday and I could on Monday. Who knew! And what’s even better is that I really, really like playing it. It’s fun. Being an actor is great. I love these challenges that allows you to discover something new about yourself. Those type of challenges are much more fun than the not-making-enough-money-to-eat kind of challenges that also come along with being an actor.
So, perhaps you’ll consider living your life like an actor this week? No, I don’t mean starve yourself, I mean challenge yourself to go outside the box and do something that you never thought you could do. You might be amazed at the results. I know I was.