We are deeply immersed in the wonderful world of theatre this week in my house. Both of my teenage daughters are in the final week of rehearsal for their middle school and high school plays, affectionately known by the kids as “hell week.” On top of their regular school day and homework, they are each spending 4-6 hours every day after school in rehearsal. Both girls have done a number of plays in the past, but this weekend is particularly exciting because they each have roles with a bit more responsibility and time in the “spotlight” than they have had in previous shows. My younger daughter in particular has been rehearsing for this show since mid-September and has put in untold hours both on and off the stage in preparation for this weekend. It is exhausting and exhilarating and has everyone running on adrenaline to some degree.
Simply, perhaps a bit selfishly, I love it. I volunteer a fair amount with the middle school productions and I have been somewhat obsessed myself this week with all the last minute concerns. Because of my involvment in a variety of production details, I have the joy of hanging around rehearsals sometimes. As I have said before on this blog, I love theatre kids. They are quirky and smart, creative and playful, exhuberant and demonstrative. Unlike many of their peers, they don’t see conformity as the primary purpose of their existence. Through their participation in these productions, these kids are learning so many fabulous like skills; teamwork, risk-taking, comfort with being up in front of people, the experience of putting themselves in someone else’s shoes and imagining how they might feel in a given situation, insight into human nature and what makes something funny or touching or inspiring, the responsibility of being in the spotlight while still being unselfish and generous with your fellow actors/ teammates, taking direction from an authority figure who has the big picture in mind that you might not be able to see, and the value and privilege of creating something that brings joy and happiness to others. As I said, I love this process and I’m thrilled my kids have found this place to spend their passion for this season of their life.
I was having a conversation with my eldest last night about how she was handling the stress of having so much to do this week. I have asked both my kids repeatedly, “is all the hard work worth it?” Both have answered with a resounding yes each and every time. While I absolutely believe I have to guard against my kids being over-scheduled and stressed out, I also believe that there are valuable lessons to be learned with a time-limited period of stress-producing, hard work. Really good things come from hard work. Championship teams or fabulous shows, extraordinary works of art or meaningful acts of service all require us to pour ourselves out and, to some degree, use ourselves up. If we feel passionate about something, if we really care about something, if we lose ourselves in creating something bigger than ourselves…we are really alive. And that is a good thing.
One of my favorite songs has a line in it that says “the Glory of God is man fully alive.” Isn’t it the best feeling to lose track of time doing something you truly love doing? Living in a moment so fully that I temporarily forget my obsession with what has been left undone or what needs doing next? Having fun…real fun, while pouring myself into a creative process that taps into one of the gifts that my Creative Creator has poured into me? Perhaps, in the process, even connecting with other human beings in ways that cause me to celebrate our common humanity instead of focusing on those things that divide us.
Yes, hell week is stressful. Yes, hell week is hard work. Yes, the pressure is scary and the hours are long. In spite of all that, I think my girls are having the time of their lives and on opening night (or opening day) hell week will be transformed into a little taste of Heaven.
“The Glory of God is man fully alive.” It inspires me to have a few more “hell weeks” in my life as well.