This past weekend was Cabaret at my children’s high school. It is the annual, year-end variety show which features the school’s two most charismatic seniors as the emcees and a diverse lineup of acts that are imagined, designed, produced and performed by any student in the school who is interested in auditioning. I started going four years ago when my oldest son, Ethan, made it into jazz band as a freshman. The jazz band plays all the musical introductions and interludes during the two hour event.
My son, Ethan, on right, playing alto saxophone.
Ethan is a senior this year so, unless his younger brother, Caleb, makes the switch from clarinet to saxophone that the director has been asking him to do, this will have been my last year with a kid in the Cabaret. I might just keep going, though, because it is some of the most inspiring performances you’ll see in the arts in our town and has got to be one of the best shows you can see for ten bucks. It was kind of bittersweet to see my son do his last high school sax playing.
All sentimentality aside, every time I’ve been to this event, I have been impressed on so many levels. There is a lot of negative talk about this generation of kids and, personally, I feel a lot of what might be ailing them and their personalities comes from some serious missteps by the adults in their lives, but that is another topic entirely. What I see when I go to a production like this, however, is the enormous capacity these young adults have for imagination, creativity, collaboration, expression and, most notably, support for each other.
Here are just a few examples of some of the wide range of diverse talents these teens had on display:
A choreographed dance in homemade light suits that had the ability to have certain portions lit at different times.
A local dance star who clearly revels in the skill, flexibility and movement for which he has trained his body so diligently.
A beautiful acoustic duet that capitalized on two unique voices rather than the more “canned” style of the highly trained musical theatre student.
Fun, playful and sexy belly dancing.
A silly tap dance number in inflated “fat suits.”
Bouncy, fun group fiddle playing.
And, of course, a talented boy band.
There were many more acts worth noting but you can see what I mean by diversity, can’t you? When I see so many young people with such a variety of talents and creative interests, it makes me feel very hopeful about their ability to join a world that so desperately needs people with the power to imagine, delight and inspire others. I respect that they understand their own creative skills and are excited about sharing them with an audience for the sole purpose of enjoyment and fun. It is quite a departure from their day-to-day living–one in which we push them to accomplish the things that will bring good grades and monetary success which is, unfortunately, what the world seems to have dictated for all of us. These silly, extravagant evenings let us all indulge for a moment in being in our own joy, both as participants and spectators.
And, as inspiring and fun as all these young performers were, what I have consistently noticed lately in all venues where I witness young people perform in front of their peers is a touching and unwavering support they have for each other, seemingly simply for the act of performing. Encouraging shout-outs, clapping and singing along and mad cheering for each other is always present and, when I first encountered this, I was kind of surprised. I remember the cruel days of junior high when an off note in a choral performance yielded instant heckling and many kids wouldn’t even dream of getting on a stage for fear of the social repercussions. My own single–and failed– attempt at cheerleader tryouts was, indeed, a dark cloud in that entire school year and one that surely influenced my desire to ever try out for anything again. These kids are far more supportive of each other’s courage, far more engaged in each other’s individual art forms, and far more willing to appreciate what it takes to put oneself out there for public scrutiny than were the teens of my own youth. And, it seems to me that they can acknowledge greatness in each other. They clap, they hoot, they give the love.
We know so well how to talk about what’s wrong with them but sometimes, well, the kids are alright.
TRY THIS WEEK: See what’s right with them.