A Hyena Evolved
So hopefully you remember Little D’s experience with the school play last year.
She did a great job playing a hyena and mustered up so much energy for the part that she was even chosen to sit in the front-row of the chorus, proud as could be, chanting “Hakuna Matata!” with a smile a mile wide.
Well, it’s a new year, friends. And with it comes a new production.
This time, it’s Shrek.
No hyenas to be found in Shrek, as far as I know.
So she went into it with an open mind and a very open heart. It was her second school production after all and she had given her first so much dedication and effort, this one was going to be her big moment. She just knew it.
Until she got cast as a “citizen.”
A glorified extra, if you will. A part with absolutely no speaking parts, no solo singing, not much of anything. Not a hyena, but not much more.
Do you remember the citizens in Shrek? Exactly.
She was bummed from the get-go and again we did the enthusiastic parents thing and reminded her that her best friend is also a citizen and that she is only in second grade and that the bigger roles are probably going to older kids again…
Well, it turns out Fiona is being played by…a second grader.
So my little hyena is not a happy citizen. Again.
But this time, I learned from experience. This time I knew that I couldn’t rush to fix it, that I couldn’t demand a casting review. That I had to let my little citizen find a glimmer of shine in the spotlight…no matter how small it may be.
Turns out, Little D learned something too.
Last week, I went to pick her up at play practice and while all the kids came pouring out of the auditorium, I waited patiently but saw no sign of her. I peeked inside and there she was, talking animatedly to her director. You have to know my daughter to love this moment because she was wearing a headband that day that was very reminiscent of Luke Wilson’s look in “The Royal Tenenbaums” and rocking it in ways you can’t even imagine. Style icon in the making, I am telling you. But I digress. I saw her chattering away to her director, full of passion and prose. He started to nod in agreement, slowly at first and then more excitedly. Gave her a high five and saw her on her way. She started to come my way, headband firmly in place, backpack loaded up high on her little frame.
“Hey D,” I said, nonchalantly. “What were you talking to your director about?”
“Well, I told him I need another role in the play,” she said, with equal nonchalance, more focused on her shoelace than the conversation at hand. “I don’t want to just be a citizen, so I told him I want to be an animal instead. A dog.”
“Ok…” I said, cautiously. “And that means you won’t be a citizen at all anymore? You will have a new role?”
“No, mommy,” she sighed, a slight roll in her eyes. “I am still going to be a citizen but I want to be a special citizen. One who is a dog. He said I can’t bark but I can crawl on all fours like a dog and wear dog ears and be an animal citizen.”
And just like that, her little role became a very big deal to her.
This dog-loving former hyena may not be Fiona, but she will be a citizen to remember. A dog citizen. The dog citizen, if you will. And more importantly, she fixed it all on her own. She is the one who demanded a casting review, without telling me a thing. She didn’t need her mom to make things better for her, she did it by herself. She went out and found some extra shine to add to her spotlight.
For one very important moment, she became the director of her own little seven-year-old life. And I was just a spectator.
And, as with her esteemed role as a hyena, I know she will be the best dog animal whatever citizen Shrek has ever seen. And next year? Maybe she will have a line or two. Maybe a small solo in the choir. Maybe even a role like Fiona.
But if not, that’s ok too. Because this girl is clearly a little superstar already. And I am her biggest fan.
*image above is a beautiful hand drawing of Little D when she was even littler, done by a close – and very talented – friend of ours.