Thank You from Thank You, Mr. Falker

30 05 2011

Thank you to all who attended and supported the new family musical Thank You, Mr. Falker over the past three weeks at the Morgan-Wixson Theatre!

By the numbers, we reached at least 1500 audience members over the course of our run: 6 public performances and 4 school shows. Thanks to our kickstarter campaign and a grant from the City of Santa Monica and the Santa Monica Arts Commission, we were able to donate many tickets to underprivileged youth in the area. We had an incredibly diverse audience, from young children to grandparents, from families in need to unexpected celebrities like Jennifer Garner and William H. Macy. I was particularly thankful to share the show with my librettist Andrew Bentz visiting from VA, my family visiting from NC, and my fellow LA theater critics and friends. Your feedback and support means more than you will ever know.

More important than the statistics, though, I think our production had a tangible impact on the audience members and the production team alike. Patricia Polacco’s book Thank You, Mr. Falker is probably not a natural choice for a musical. It is the story of a little girl struggling with dyslexia until an inspirational new teacher helps open up the world of literature. But thanks to the incredible work of the cast, creative team, parents, and other volunteers, I hope … and I truly believe … we created something special on that stage. A show enjoyable for both kids and adults. A show that advocates for the importance of arts education without being too didactic. A show in a classic musical theater tradition that builds a strong sense of ensemble.

At least these were the ideals that we aimed for. And in fleeting and beautiful moments, I think we actually achieved them. Just look how much fun our kids had warming up before every performance. I wish I had this sort of creative community at their age:

I was lucky enough to sit in the middle of the audience for the closing show yesterday. There was a little girl in front of me, probably 7 or 8 years old, perched on the edge of her seat during the entire musical – enthralled by the kids singing and dancing together. There were children around me who sounded out the words along with Trisha and shared in her triumph of finally learning to read. And the talkbacks and the conversations I have had after each and every performance often exceeded the joys of the show itself.

This was the first live theater experience for many children in our audience. Whether these young audience members become theater practitioners, regular theatergoers, or just more empathetic individuals for having seen our show, it is fulfilling to have been a part of something with the potential to positively, tangibly shape someone’s life. I know the experience of collaborating with such a talented, dedicated production team has positively shaped my own.

So what’s next? I’ll be catching up on a few theater reviews in the next couple of weeks, then I am off to Israel with Emanuel Azenberg and friends for a (much-needed) vacation. Sadly, I will be missing the excitement of the Hollywood Fringe Festival, TCG Conference, and RADAR L.A. in June … but I will be back reviewing in full force by July! Again … thank you, all.

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