“Alright… action!” I half yelled. We were in the hallway of John Mercer Langston school, right outside the auditorium that our Theatre Group, “the Harlem All-Stars” meets in. We’d split our performers up into little groups to work on different parts of our upcoming production. Some kids were singing, somewhere dancing, we selected a few to work on their poetry with one of our College interns who majored in English. At the time, I was Narrating one of my actors (Khalief age 7) through his scene in the production, which includes the storyline of Dr Jekyll and Dr Hyde. That was until Khalief realized he had more questions “wait a minute, hold on a sec” he said.
I glanced down at this squinty-smiling-eyed, cheery kid, whose dark eyebrows suddenly rose into his blond hairline. Whose directing you or me? I wondered, and then I had to laugh at myself because I ask life the same question often. But that’s what you get when working with Kids who want to perform, they often show you your humanity. They tend to mirror what’s fragile about your reflection one moment, just to show you what’s infinite about your soul the next. Regardless, I’ve come to grapse that working with vivacious kids will keep anyone on their toes, so it’s not just me. I listened intently to Khalief because he’s usually asking a question I have to consider before answering “So, he just rips out of his old skin and climbs out of DR Jekyll's old body to become Dr Hyde?, is that how the good doctor turns into the evil doctor?”kaleef asked me. I had a premonition just then, it was the following day. My boss called to inform me that one of the kids had a nightmare about a skin ripping story I told them. I decided it was time to change the narrative. “no” I took a knee so we could be face to face. “how tall were you when you were 3 years old?” I asked. As if he had rubber handballs for kneecaps, he drops to his knees, demonstrating or rather performing, how short he was and looked up at me with a crest white smile that said, “I think I’m indestructible”. These kids are the reason I might have laugh lines. “and now you're 7 years old and your body changed because your taller right?” I asked “Yeah” he says thoughtfully. “so, imagine that when Dr Jekyll becomes Dr Hyde, He’s growing up and aging into a different person. No skin ripping, ok?, just a transformation like…like.. magic except its science, understand?” I watched his eyes light up with a new visual. He immediately begins to perform, groaning and holding onto his stomach and jerking his body around to show me his transformation from Jekyll to Hyde. And walla, no nightmares!, he gets the story, he performs it like a boss, Crisis averted. The gravity of Kaleef and I’s discussion wouldn’t hit me until later on. one of our Musician interns Matty took to the auditoriums piano. I was standing in the corner of the stage, watching the kids eat their snacks. Rehearsal had ended and with it, begun a melodic sound that suddenly created a motion picture in my mind the moment Matty began to play. Her music worked goosebumps over me. I felt like she was playing a song I’ve played on my own once before. Or maybe she was just playing a song for all souls, something we’d all recognize within ourselves when we believe we are apart of something that matters. Regardless, her music worked like hands to a curtain, pulling it back so I could see more than just the surface of my life. When I realize what I was looking at, when I saw the picture Khalief and Matty and my own drama teacher back in high school created for me, I was raptured in awe.
I’d like to say I saw heaven or aliens, or realized the answer for the big question, what is the meaning of life? But instead, I saw a bunch of beautiful children who love to perform. And who don’t mind asking questions when they don’t understand how change works. Maybe the if they keep approaching life and change this way, unafraid to ask for help or direction, the future will be greater than the past. I know one things for sure, if my life was play, its already got a better plot because of these kids. There worth the time and their time, is now.