I’m pretty bummed about the lack of audience we’ve had for Pick Up Ax. We only had four people tonight. Even in a 99 seat house, that’s pretty bad.
Where the hell are all those people who said they’d be there back when I told them about it during the past year and a half? It’s so discouraging to play to an empty house.
I’ve sent out thousands of flyers. I’ve emailed everyone. I’ve made calls, hired the publicist, we’ve had all the Los Angeles press out to review the show. What more can a person do? As if that wasn’t frustrating enough, I finally broke down and called On the House, an organization that allows its members to attend shows for free. And we only get four people! All this work and I can’t even give the tickets away.
The root of the problem is that no one knows Pick Up Ax or the playwright, Anthony Clarvoe. My theatre company is also not a major name in Los Angeles, though we’re better known at home in Orange County.
You see, people will go to see a show they know at a theatre they don’t know. Or vice versa. But the average theatre-goer won’t take a chance on a show they don’t know being staged by a theatre company they are also not familiar with.
This is not a surprise. I’ve known this since the day we started. But I decided a long time ago that if I’m going to put the time, money, and effort into producing a show, then I’m going to produce something that is innovative, interesting, and didactic. If that means the production suffers with low attendence, then I’ll take that hit.
I’d rather see it go down that way than have a production of Oklahoma or some overdone Neil Simon play open with my name on it. No matter what, I’ve got faith in my vision, and come hell or high water I’m going to do it my way.
Anyway, I was down about it for a while. But something always comes right along to cheer me up. My old college friend Dave Ehlen (who gets married in just over a week) sent out an e-mail with some short stories about children that made me feel better. I’ll share ’em with you. I liked the first and last ones best.
Children are often our best teachers…
“The Golden Gift”
Some time ago, a friend of mine punished his 3-year-old daughter for wasting a roll of gold wrapping paper. Money was tight, and he became infuriated when the child tried to decorate a box to put under the tree.
Nevertheless, the little girl brought the gift to her father the next morning and said, “This is for you, Daddy.” He was embarrassed by his earlier overreaction, but his anger flared again when he found that the box was empty. He yelled at her, “Don’t you know that when you give someone a present, there’s supposed to be something inside of it?”
The little girl looked up at him with tears in her eyes and said, “Oh, Daddy, it’s not empty. I blew kisses into the box. All for you, Daddy.”
The father was crushed. He put his arms around his little girl, and he begged her forgiveness. My friend told me that he kept that gold box by his bed for years. Whenever he was discouraged, he would take out an imaginary kiss and remember the love of the child who had put it there. In a very real sense, each of us as parents has been given a gold container filled with unconditional love and kisses from our children. There is no more precious possession anyone could hold.
“The Most Caring Child”
Author and lecturer Leo Buscaglia once talked about a contest he was asked to judge. The purpose of the contest was to find the most caring child.
The winner was a four year old child whose next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman’s yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there. When his mother asked him what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said, “Nothing … I just helped him cry.”
“Two Nickels and Five Pennies”
When an ice cream sundae cost much less, a boy entered a coffee shop and sat at a table. A waitress put a glass of water in front of him. “How much is an ice cream sundae?” “Fifty cents,” replied the waitress. The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied a number of coins in it. “How much is a dish of plain ice cream?” he inquired. Some people were now waiting for a table, and the waitress was impatient. “Thirty-five cents,” she said angrily. The little boy again counted the coins. “I’ll have the plain ice cream.”
The waitress brought the ice cream and walked away. The boy finished, paid the cashier, and departed. When the waitress came back, she swallowed hard at what she saw. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were two nickels and five pennies–her tip.
“What It Means to Be Adopted”
Teacher Debbie Moon’s first graders were discussing a picture of a family. One little boy in the picture had a different color hair than the other family members. One child suggested that he was adopted and a little girl named Jocelynn Jay said, “I know all about adoptions because I was adopted.” “What does it mean to be adopted?” asked another child. “It means,” said Jocelynn, “that you grew in your mommy’s heart instead of her tummy.”
As I was driving home from work one day, I stopped to watch a local little League baseball game that was being played in a park near my home. As I sat down behind the bench on the first-baseline, I asked one of the boys what the score was. “We’re behind 14 to nothing,” he answered with a smile. “Really,” I said. “I have to say you don’t look very discouraged.” “Discouraged?” the boy asked with a puzzled look on his face. “Why should we be discouraged? We haven’t been up to bat yet.”
“Roles And How We Play Them”
Whenever I’m disappointed with my spot in my life, I stop and think about little Jamie Scott. Jamie was trying out for a part in a school play. His mother told me that he’d set his heart on being in it, though she feared he would not be chosen. On the day the parts were awarded, I went with her to collect him after school. Jamie rushed up to her, eyes shining with pride and excitement. “Guess what Mum,” he shouted, and then said those words that will remain a lesson to me: “I’ve been chosen to clap and cheer!”