We’ve got to be carefully teaching…

IMG_0065I have a granddaughter. She has two parents, four grandparents, two great-grandmothers, two uncles, one aunt, seven great-aunts, four great uncles, many cousins and a whole village of friends. She’s pretty well-protected. Lots of support, lots of playmates, lots of role models.

She will want for nothing.

I look forward to the days that she and I will talk about art and music and books and why that pesky little kid on the playground pulls her hair or is always there to push her on the swing. I’ll listen to her highs and lows of school life, take her out for ice cream and mani-pedis, be her confidante when her parents just don’t understand. And when she’s old enough, hopefully we’ll pick up each other’s bar tabs.

I can draw on my own experience from raising her mother and aunt and uncle and helping a whole slew of theater and choir kids who depended on me one way or another, whether it was to get a ride home, sew a costume, run lines, figure out a homework assignment or simply sit down at our table for a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios. Most of that experience helped me hone my compassion, patience, tolerance and of course, my wicked sense of humor.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 9.44.34 PMAround our house, freak flags flew freely. Language could be appropriately salty, as long as it was in moderation, but there were no fears of reprisal. Above all, there was respect for every person’s opinion, question, feelings and values. There wasn’t always agreement, but everyone got to have their say as long as they were respectful of that right across the board. We made it a point to surround our kids – all of them – with like-minded grownups who set good examples.

I’m worried, though, about the world in which Sadie is growing up. Respect, hard work and tolerance all seem to be going by the wayside, replaced by bigotry, intolerance, racism, hatred and disrespect.

How do we teach the little ones that it’s not nice to call someone names when our presumptive “leaders” are slinging insults around the airwaves to thunderous applause? How do we teach them to share and compromise when the people we elect stomp their feet and refuse to do their jobs because they don’t like someone or their beliefs? How can we imbue them with tolerance and patience when so many people openly embrace discrimination? People cheer the concept of building a wall to keep out immigrants instead of taking that energy and reforming our immigration system – why? How do we teach them to look at the bigger picture, to make the world a better place for everyone when so many focus on one or two insignificant issues that hurt others, while ignoring the critical problems around them?

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 9.59.53 PMWhen did the sense of entitlement take over, pushing aside the needs or acknowledgement of others to favor one person’s mean spirit? When did we pick the “right” side of town? How did we develop a “give it to me, even when I haven’t earned it” attitude, eschewing hard work or service?

What do we tell these precious little ones? How do we tell them all that their lives matter, that there is a level playing field somewhere, that they are entitled to be treated with respect and dignity and that they are responsible to reflect that in their treatment of others?

What happened to punishing bad behavior instead of rewarding it?

And how are our leaders continually getting away with hate?

One of the things I plan on doing with Sadie is taking her to the theater. I am going to make sure one of the shows we see is “South Pacific,” a classic piece by Rodgers and Hammerstein that features a slice of life during World War II. I will tell her about her great-grandfathers who served in the Pacific and we will listen to one of the “controversial” songs from that show that we should probably put on the Billboard charts again. It’s called “You Have To Be Carefully Taught” and the lyrics go like this:

You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear,

You’ve got to be taught from year to year.

It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear

You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid of people whose eyes are oddly made,

And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade

You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late, before you are six or seven or eight

To hate all the people your relatives hate

You’ve got to be carefully taught.

 

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 9.55.08 PMRespect. It’s being kind when being rude or mean is easier. It’s caring for the feelings of everyone affected by a situation. Sometimes it means biting your tongue until it bleeds. It’s loving someone when they least deserve it. It’s being competitive without being hateful or violent; there is no excuse for hurting someone who roots for the opposing team.

I refuse to teach Sadie hate. I refuse to accept it from people wanting my vote or worse, those who are already in office. I will teach her to take action and defend herself when someone wants to take away her rights or the rights of others. I will teach her to listen, to consider, to weigh the pros and cons and be tolerant and patient. I will help her believe that she deserves dignity, but above all, to treat others as she would like to be treated and to be true to herself. Despite the crazy world she lives in, I will teach her that love is much stronger than hate.

Of those things, I will make sure she is carefully taught.

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Please share this and let me know what you think – I love feedback!

Carol Rock is a writer based in the Los Angeles area. She is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years experience covering all areas of news and features. She works as a freelance public relations and media consultant, with writing remaining her strong suit. Her tattoo, if it were real, would read “Don’t Die Wondering.”

Gotta go, the stage is calling

Leave it to the ubiquitous cell phone to put live theater in the headlines recently.

First, Nick Silvestri, attending a performance of “Hand of God” at the Booth Theater in New York with his family, climbed onstage before the show began and tried to plug his cell phone into what he thought was a working electric plug on the show’s set.

cell-phone-movie-theatre-45Then, actor Patti Lupone, who is currently starring in “Shows for Days” on Broadway became so frustrated with audience members’ cell phones going off and in particular, one woman who texted throughout the show’s curtain call, that she grabbed the texter’s cell phone, walked off stage and gave it to the stage manager.

Lupone lamented that she was reconsidering future acting gigs if audience behavior could not be controlled. Most likely hearing the laughter of box office and house managers across the country, she came up with a great second act – a series of rules that theater goers should follow while being entertained.

But first, let’s ponder the idiot whose cell phone was dying. His situation begs the question: have we no respect for each other, yielding all to the electronic gadgets we carry around?

“I was thinking they were probably going to plug something in there on the set and I figured it wouldn’t be a big deal if my phone was up there too,” the 19-year old college student explained.

Hand of GodReally? That could be a testament to the reality of the set design by Beowulf Boritt, who mused to Vanity Fair that this realism didn’t give him a new standard, but would definitely keep him from putting a toilet on stage in future shows.

Silvestri even posed that he helped the show get some attention because his stupidity (oops, my word, not his) earned them hits all over social media and the news.

Don’t flatter yourself, punk. The show is a Tony-nominated heart-felt effort from the writers, director, actors and rest of the company who worked their asses off to perform for you. Next semester, click past the classes on getting laid and being entitled and check out “Respecting Other People’s Work” – you might be surprised at what you find. Oh, and use your Amazon Student account to get a portable phone charger. It’s what normal people do to power-up their phones when they’re not at home.

Now back to fully-charged cell phones operating in the house –

PattiLuponeLupone’s phone grab is something understandable by everyone who has ever performed on a stage, with a caveat. Actors dedicate their entire beings to becoming a character, working hard to memorize lines, remember blocking and choreography and become part of an ensemble that tells stories, only to be derailed by rude people who find it impossible to silence their phones and leave them in purse or pocket.

It is as distracting as someone talking aloud while a gut-wrenching 10-page soliloquy is given onstage. To the actor, this behavior tells them loud and clear that their efforts are for naught, that the audience member does not care for their performance and has absolutely no respect for them.

That is just wrong.

Now the caveat. While I understand Ms. Lupone’s frustration, I do not condone breaking that fourth wall and seizing the evidence. She is justified in being angry at that person and lashing out in revenge and punishment might be tempting, but what about the rest of the audience, the vast majority of people who hadn’t engaged in bad behavior? For them, the magical separation of the story was shattered by her actions. Frustrated or not, she must maintain that wall of separation and not engage.

Besides, only stage and house managers should confiscate phones. It’s my favorite thing to do when I’m in charge.

Lupone is a talented, experienced and seasoned actress who is known to give passionately to her craft. It would be a tremendous loss if she found something else to do with her time instead of thrilling audiences from the stage. It is her credibility on stage that gives weight to her five simple suggestions for audiences, which include….

Respect – the people around you. The theater is a place of wonder for so many, don’t take away a single moment of their enjoyment by talking or doing anything other than watching the magic behind the proscenium.

Power down – Live theater offers an escape, a liberation from our electronic leashes. Take advantage and watch the show.

Eat dinner before the show – Even though the audience section of a theater is called “the house,” it is not your kitchen or couch. Don’t bring food or drink into the theater, (bottled water the only exception) and if you MUST unwrap a candy or cough drop, do it before the curtain rises. It’s easier to hear in the absence of chewing, slurping and crinkling.

It is called the house, not the kitchen or the couch
It is called the house, not the kitchen or the couch. Don’t bring food!

Use judgment – Don’t feel obligated to give everything you see a standing ovation. (This one prompted quite a bit of feedback from fellow thespians.) One should leap to their feet only when they are moved by the actors and writing; seeing you standing and applauding tells the actors that they have done their job of reaching into your hearts and minds and enriching your lives. Simply popping up when the applause begins lessens the value of the enthusiastic Oh-My-God-That-Changed-My-Life response of the truly thrilled.

Prepare for bliss – Come expecting to be transported. This last weekend, I saw a production of Mary Poppins and found myself surrounded by patrons who were clearly taken away by the show – the lady next to me was singing along to familiar melodies and a child behind me was excitedly telling their adult about the magic on stage (not constantly, but enough to let me know that they were enjoying every moment).

the-comedy-and-tragedy-masks-acting-204476_1920_662Live theater recharges the batteries of my soul and fills me with inspiration and appreciation for the talents of so many. It can move us all in ways that no status or video or message ever will.