Dear Paul, Ava, Evie, Carly, Gabby, Gianna, Gavin, Jason, Diego, Bobbi, Raghav, Brandon, Luca, Sofia, Isabella, Jersey, and Shahadi,
I was fortunate enough to see your show a few weeks ago. Perhaps you noticed me in the audience. I was the adult woman openly weeping during “Stick It to the Man (Reprise).” My fellow audience members were bopping and clapping along, all smiles and shouts of joy, while I was overcome with a feeling of pride and something else. I don’t think there’s a word for that something else. There probably is in German. Let’s say it’s kinderschlausenhoda. That sounds right. It means “a deep sense of relation to a group of children you’ve never met, performing on a Broadway stage.”
Many eons ago, before you were all born, I, too, was performing on a Broadway stage from the time I was nine until I was 12. I was keenly aware at the time of how much fun acting was. I loved my co-workers and developed some deep and meaningful friendships, many of which still exist today. I learned invaluable skills. I not only learned about acting, but I learned how to be an actor. The people and lessons I learned in my time as a child on Broadway played a large role in shaping who I am today.
As I watched you all up there on the stage of the Winter Garden, I was overcome with kinderschlausenhoda. I imagined how much fun you were all having. I remembered my own excitement at getting to be a part of such a huge and extraordinary thing when I was your age. And I could see into your futures. I am so excited for you and this incredible journey you are on.
Where you are right now, in your lives, in your careers, is beyond extraordinary. Your playground (and, in some sense, your schoolroom) is a Broadway stage in a hit show. You are so lucky. Don’t get me wrong: you are also immensely talented and disciplined. I’m sure you have trained to get where you are. And your talent and hard work is paying off in dividends that most people will never experience. But you are also so very, very lucky. There are millions of children who want to be where you are. Of those, only a portion have the talent to do it. Of those, only a portion have the means to get the lessons or go to the auditions. Of those, only a portion will get to audition. And only a portion of those kids will be cast in a show. The number of children who get cast in a Broadway show is even smaller. And you are one of them. Isn’t that incredible?
I would like to be able to tell each and every one of you that you are going to go on to have successful careers in the theatre. But that isn’t going to be true for all of you. Some of you will decide you’d rather play soccer or study marine biology. Some of you might have trouble getting work as you get older. Some of you might have major life events that veer you onto a track you didn’t expect for yourself. I know that it’s probably hard to imagine these things right now. But life is weird and funny and doesn’t move in a straight line. The lines of your lives, stretched out before you, are curvy and twisty and filled with great and terrible things. And what you are doing is going to help you travel down that twisty, windy road for the rest of your lives. No matter where life takes you, no matter if it feels like you’re steering the ship or someone else is at the helm, the experiences you are having right now are going to continue to reveal gifts and lessons you have no idea you’re receiving.
Someday, when you’re sitting in your marine biology lab, or holding your child, or sitting in your dressing room waiting for your entrance, it will hit you. Someday, when you are facing one of life’s terrible times, you will have to dig down deep for resources to get through, and you will realize that without the experience you are having right now, you likely wouldn’t have those resources. And you will be immensely grateful. No matter what happens in your life, you will always have this experience. And someday you will go see a show with children in it, and you, too, will experience kinderschlausenhoda, and you will weep for joy at the lives those children will have.
With admiration and love,