her mark

My girl came home from school crushed. She tried to pretend it was nothing – all part of the process, after all. But the bravado crumbled quickly.

She wanted the part so badly — Ida in Honk, a musical version of The Ugly Duckling. It was her eighth grade musical – her last chance to play the lead with this drama teacher, this musical director (dubbed her favorite human who’s not a Wilson), this group of kids. She’d memorized the song and had sung it like nobody’s business. There was no way she wasn’t getting that part. Until she didn’t.

She was cast as Maureen, Ida’s best friend. “I get it,” she’d said, “I mean, [the girl who got the lead] is super talented. She has a really good voice.” Her grace was beautiful, and heartbreaking.

She was to play a moorhen, costumed like a middle-aged church lady and relegated to one duet and the occasional punch line. She was frustrated. And sad. And I understood.

No one works harder in the theater than my kid. She felt like she’d earned it. But earned it or not, she didn’t get it. We talked about the myriad possible reasons that it didn’t happen the way she wanted it to. And the fact that there would and will always be myriad possible reasons that things don’t work the way we want them to. Hard and important lessons.

She was granted the understudy to the lead, both an honor and a tough pill to swallow, though she said neither. I took the day off from work to see her perform as Ida for the sixth graders. She was incredible.

And then came opening night. Having seen her as Ida, I couldn’t imagine her as Maureen. My girls have a habit though of proving my imagination far too limited for their reality. Nifty, that.

The moment the curtain opened, my girl lit up the stage.

In a crowd of kids, it was her that drew the eye. She was glowing.

Ed note: Since I don’t have the wherewithal to get permission from the other kids’ parents to post their photos, I’ve covered their faces. With ducklings. Get it? Ducklings? Right. Moving on. 


{image is a photo of a scene in the barnyard early in the show}

A dad approached me after the show. “She’s incredible,” he said. “She just … you can’t not watch her. She … she lights up the stage. She … she … transforms.”

I tried to sound humble, but pride makes humble hard when it’s your kid you’re talking about. I hope I at least managed gracious.


{image is a photo of Maureen (Katie) and Ida singing a duet}


{image is a photo of Katie as Maureen singing}


{image above and two below are photos of Maureen and Ida singing as the ducklings hatch behind them}




{images above and below are photos of Katie and the actor who played Drake taking a curtain call}


She was breathtaking and I couldn’t have been more proud.

In December, Katie met Peter Reynolds, author of, among many others, one of her favorite children’s books, The Dot.

“I need to tell you how much I loved The Dot,” Katie said.

“Oh, I’m so glad!” said Peter.

“No,” she said, her voice catching in her throat, “I mean .. it’s .. it changed everything for me. I do what I love because of that book. I needed to tell you.”

I had planned to take photos of the two of them talking, but I let my phone fall to my side. This wasn’t a moment that would need to be recorded to be remembered. And my girl had begun to cry. Peter stood stock still and held her arm as she spoke.

“When I was little, I auditioned for my first play,” she said, “I got a part in the ensemble. And I wanted to quit because I was upset and it wasn’t what I wanted at all. I wanted to be one of the leads and I didn’t think there was any point in being in the chorus. But then I read The Dot. And it told me that even my own tiny dot was enough – that I could make my mark if I was brave enough to be me and to do what I loved no matter what. And it’s why I stuck with theater. And I love it more than anything in the world. And I might not have that if it weren’t for you.”

Tears streamed down her face as she spoke.

Peter pulled her into a hug. The world was perfectly still.

Following tradition, at the cast party the day after the play closed, the director gave the eighth graders awards. There was a “Newcomer” Award, an “I Actually Broke My Leg” Award (which, amazingly did NOT go to Katie), a “Most Impressive Harmony” Award. And then there was Katie’s — the “Heart and Soul” Award, given, they said, to the young lady who puts her heart and soul into everything she does. She told me later that the musical director teared up as he handed it to her. I can’t blame him. I teared up as I typed that sentence.

But as I sat in the darkened theater as the play ended, watching my girl drink in the appreciation of the audience, I thought of Peter. Of The Dot. And, of course, of my girl, who proves every day that she is brave enough to make her mark.

And a heck of a mark it is.


7 thoughts on “her mark

  1. Katie was amazing in the play (as we all knew she would be). She’s an increible person is so many ways. The Heart and Soul Award definitely went to right actress.

    Love you,

  2. Katie, you have a fan…. Perhaps not one you would expect…. A wrinkly, old woman who will relive her young girl dreams vicariously through your accomplishments. You and your family are a beacon…. I’m greatful for your mothers communication skills and your generosity in your willingness to allow her to share. Thank you…. Where will our next adventure take us…. G’Ma Faye

  3. I’m tearing up just reading this! Wow. Katie is an amazing human being. Being a writer, this story touched me so much. Heck, being a human, this story touched me. So beautiful. Go Katie!

    Maybe you want to share that I work in the “business”. My father won an Academy Award. It often puts me in a circle of people that are, let’s say, the “leads” in the play.

    I can say for sure, without question, that nothing matters, nothing at all without heart and soul. Talent will get you the jobs but heart and soul will get you everything.


    again: go Katie!!!

  4. I only just started following this blog – and I’m so happy to have found you. I’ve teared up at many of your posts, but this one struck a tender chord. I was always in the ensemble, never the lead, but theater played a huge role in developing the person I am today. I am now the mother to a 1 year old drama queen 🙂 Thank you for sharing and ROCK ON, Katie 🙂

  5. Your words inspired me to buy “the dot” for my Goddaughter, a five year old who has a tendency to be way too hard on herself. if it helps her even a fraction of what it did for your amazing daughter, I will be very pleased. You must be so very proud of both of your girls. I love the way you tell your readers about them.

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