img_6262Last Thursday morning, Zoe insisted that Bart take her to the school office to get a copy of an audition script for Alice in Wonderland because her school is putting on the play. Thinking this was part of her Dramamaniacs after school program, he did.

Turns out it was an “all school” audition for an actual production – meaning kids from grades K-5 were allowed to try out (read: sure seems unlikely that a “new” first grader who has never tried out for anything will be in that show…).

Better yet? We get the script home, and I ask Zoe what character she wants to try out for. Without missing a beat she says: ALICE. Right. Of course. The lead.

This is where it gets tough(er) to be a parent. There are things we “know” that kids, in their innocence, do not. So. Do you crush the dreams of your child or encourage them to forge ahead blindly and pick up the pieces later. Clearly, I do not know.

So I attempt to do both. I tell Zoe that to audition, she’s going to need to practice. She says ok but “not today”. Remember, this is Thursday and auditions are on Tuesday. As Friday and Saturday pass, I again nudge softly that she’ll need to practice. Not yet, mom. On Sunday night, I say, “If you want to try out, I highly recommend that you try now.”

We pull out the script after dinner to review. As I skim through the script, she again confirms that she wants to be Alice.

I kindly and gently point out that Alice has quite a few lines in this 4-page script (including immediately having 5 lines of spoken copy that are challenging). She is not deterred. I equally gently explain that she will not be allowed to READ the script, she’ll need to memorize every word. Not even a blink.

I passively mention that she could choose one of the Cheshire cats, who have short, quippy lines, and have fewer words to remember. Nope.

Even more exciting? This is where I find out that she’s never even seen a script. Not only does she need to learn the lines, she needs to know how a script works (Character: words, unspoken but important stage direction). I am further concerned.

So I give up and say, “Let’s read it.” Thankfully, my patient teacher / mother is there at the table and takes on the task. She encourages, she demonstrates inflection, she asks great questions, and she gets Zoe through most of that script. I remain concerned.

We highlight the lines for Alice in yellow boxes, and I remind her that she really needs to practice and take this seriously. Yes, mom. I’m still concerned.

On Monday night she claims she has practiced at school, and we pull out the script. She starts to read the top 5-line section (the one that worries me):

Should I or shouldn’t I? You know what they say: “If you don’t explore, you’ll never discover.” But my sister Mathilda always says, “Look before you leap.” Well, I’m looking and it looks pretty deep and dark and I can’t see the bottom and maybe it goes all the way to the center of the earth and I’ll be burnt to a crisp in the molten core like the bad marshmallow we’ve all heard so much about! (pause) Or not. (pause) Ok, I looked. Now it’s time to leap!


She can clearly read it (and better than yesterday). But come on, she has to REMEMBER and DELIVER it. So I take away the script and say, “That’s great, but you don’t get to read the script. Try again.” And she basically nails it. Not flawless, but really really good! She has inflection, excitement. She’s articulate – and she remembers!

I gain hope. We practice for 10 minutes and at every turn, she gets better and better. One sticky point? She doesn’t know what “burnt to a crisp” actually MEANS or “the molten core”, for that matter. There’s a big difference between reading / reciting words and knowing what they mean, as it turns out.

So we talk through what it means (generally). What the molten core is – and the “crisp” of a marshmallow (she’s had a toasted one) and why that ties into her looking down into a deep, dark rabbit hole.

I encourage her to pretend she SEES it and look down – she has to BE Alice. She smiles and does what I ask. It’s an improvement but still, crisp motlen core is a challenge. So I head into the kitchen and come back with a big fluffy marshmallow and put it on the floor. She giggles and her eyes perk up.

After another read she says, “Can I eat the marshmallow now?” One more read, and it’s hers (yes, I am a slave driver – but I believe in marshmallow payoffs).

Next, I talk her through the important parts:

  • Take a deep breath
  • Picture yourself in the auditorium
  • Look around and visualize who is there
  • Smile
  • Imagine yourself relaxed and remembering everything perfectly

We lay out “Alice” clothes (blue dress, blue shoes, headband). She goes to bed to dream of being Alice. And I am so impressed by that little girl, who has no fear and picks the lead. WHOSE KID IS THIS?!

The following morning, I pack a marshmallow in her lunch with a note: I’ll be burnt to a crisp in the molten core like the BAD marshmallow. Breathe. Be Alice. Relax. You will be great.

She gets dressed, and I tell her how proud I am of her – that no matter what happens, she should be proud of herself for being brave and for trying. “Yeah – and even with the one that has all the lines, right Mom?

Yes, Zoe, ESPECIALLY with the one that has all the lines. :)


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