"Why don't you tell him about the 'Gayborhood' and our friends in our community?" Grace Capeless' mother Kim asked her daughter at this interview for Playbill Pride, held a few hours before curtain at Broadway's Matilda The Musical, where Grace plays Lavender, a friend of Matilda's.
"Most of the people around us... Most of the kids either have two moms or two dads," 11-year-old Grace explained, "so it's kind of cool because we're all kind of similar, and it's interesting, in a way."
Kim said that they refer to their community in Teaneck, NJ, as the "Gayborhood of Bergen County." In approximately a two-mile radius live 10 sets of same-sex parents, and Grace happens to be the oldest child in the bunch.
Kim and her wife Jodi, Grace's moms, have been together for 23 years; when they knew that they wanted to raise children, they went to an adoption agency called Adoptions From the Heart, and Grace joined the family as an infant. She's now 11, and her younger brother Jack is 9. Although some may see their family dynamic as non-traditional, not much is different from families with a mom and a dad. In fact, Grace said that she likes to explain how her family is unique.
"When I went to school most of the kids, when I said I had two moms, they didn't really understand what I was talking about, so it was kind of hard to explain," she said. "But at home, it's easy, [except] if you get in trouble by your mom, it's double the trouble! But, I like it! I like getting to explain to other kids what it's like because most people have a mom and a dad.
"I say: 'I have two moms. It's like a normal couple where they meet, and then they get married. It's normal.'" In fact, Grace loves things the way they are. "I like it because it's basically an all-girl house," she said, "and then there's my brother! Jack gets upset sometimes." (Even though the family dog is also a female, Kim refers to Jack as "the prince" of the group.)
Kim explained, "Jodi and I never wanted to... I don't know how to say this, but we just 'are who we are.' Jodi was the PTA president, and I am on the School Safety Team board. We're just part of our kids' lives because that's what we would do — whatever relationship we were in. So we kind of just expect people to accept us for who we are and to accept our children for who they are. And so, I guess [to] our school community, our neighborhood, our friends... We just 'are.' We're very lucky, we know that there are places in the country where it's not just so easy to be who you are, but where we happen to be, we're just part of the swath of life. We're a normal, average family that has the same good things and bad things."
Kim runs a non-profit organization for children with muscular dystrophy, and Jodi is a professional mom (and actress, although she's taken a hiatus from the stage while Grace pursues it professionally — she's been in Matilda for a year and a half and said that she wants to continue to be an actress even after her Broadway show).
Grace got her "big break" when she was cast in the Godspell "Cast of 2032." One day, she told her parents she wanted to be on the stage, so her moms took her to the audition. Although Grace was nervous at first, she landed the "gig" and then went onto officially make her Broadway debut in A Christmas Story, The Musical (before joining the company of Matilda).
"All the kids are nice [in Matilda]," Grace said. "That's probably my favorite part, all the people in the show. I love Lesli [Margherita]! I watch all of her videos...and I'm obsessed."
Raising Grace and Jack, "We decided we would make sure that they knew about their story and they were proud of their story — proud of their family," said Kim, "so we tried to arm them with comments about: If someone said something mean to you about adoption, what would you say? And, if someone says something about it's weird to have two moms, what would you say? Because we have different skin colors, what would you say? So we tried to be as pro-active in giving them positive statements about their family and their life, and we know that there are some people who don't necessarily get it that you have two moms, but it's not been a huge issue.
"In second grade, we did get a call from the teacher that someone had been picking on [Grace, but] she said, 'I just told them we have a very unique family.' It didn't phase her. The teacher was more upset than Gracie had been. It's important, I think, for kids to have positive affirmation. Whoever they want to be, they can be, and we just say you have to make good choices, which we do say every day as they leave for school." Grace interjected: "They say it really loudly!"
"I don't know if it's because we're two moms — I'm sure two dads are just as hands-on — but I think because having a family is such a choice we make that we're both really committed to this, and we're both very hands-on, and it's very even parenting," added Kim. "We both are in it up to our elbows trying to make it work, and I think that's a benefit.
"I wish that all places in our country knew that we're just an average family. There's nothing that should be stopped in this country. I think there's so many kids out there who need homes, and there [are] so many opportunities to build these families, and they're all absolutely beautiful."
(Playbill.com features manager Michael Gioia's work appears in the news, feature and video sections of Playbill.com as well as in the pages of Playbill magazine. Follow him on Twitter at @PlaybillMichael.)