It’s that time of year when parents are invited to come to class with us and we share our work. What has been a private process of creativity becomes public for the first time. I suppose you could argue that the class provides a weekly audience, but by now that audience has shifted to a trusted legion of fellow travelers. Your classmates are your comrades on a journey that opens up new worlds of insight that are nearly impossible to explain to anyone else. Hopefully, if all goes well, your class has become your best audience, providing a mirror for your discoveries; a group that can delight in those revelations right along with you, in fact sometimes before you.
But once parents arrive everyone gets jittery all over again. Perhaps this audience will enjoy being an observer of their child’s self-discovery and savor this one tiny glimpse of their child’s journey. Experience tells me that for some, this hour becomes a time of discernment that may bring a jab of criticism or the need to measure success. That’s the chance you always take as an artist when you show your work, but with your family it’s more personal.
So to all whose job it is to observe creativity on its journey, I have these words of encouragement. Creativity is precious and very private. I once taught a class where one child was so exceptionally shy that the mere idea that everyone’s parents were coming to observe gave him an instant case of the flu. I knew his cold sweats were motivated by his tender soul not germs floating in the air. And so we created a plan.
Every great work needs a lighting design and every production worth seeing needs a great stage manager. The flu disappeared as our lighting designer/stage manager was born. When everyone’s parents arrived this young boy stood proudly by the door. He knew his role in our collective success. We started working and proudly he stood. He had joyfully participated in the class all semester warming up, becoming the man who owned all the caps in Caps for Sale, happily playing a monkey in the tree. But not today. Today he was prepared for something else. Today he would shine the light on the other actors. His cue came and flawlessly the light switched on! Bravo!
How could I begin to explain to a type-A parent that he was indeed learning, becoming more confident by the moment and especially today? What I know is that until an individual develops enough confidence in what he or she has learned you may not get to see it. It may remain hidden until it has gelled.
I don’t remember his parents’ response. I do however remember his! He was elated with his role stage left. OFF STAGE LEFT to be more correct! He knew. I knew. It was a good day.