My son is playing John in the school production of Peter Pan. He’s in the sixth grade, this is his first play and he is utterly and completely in love with the whole process.
The directors asked me to help back stage a bit and that’s given me an opportunity to watch my son a little more closely. I’ve had a grand time and the first ‘real’ production isn’t until tonight.
Behind the stage, among the props and scenery, I’ve been able to sneak close up glimpses of my son, glimpses during rehearsals when he thinks no one is watching him. Even when he’s in the background, even when the focus is not on him, he remains in character. His face, under John’s top hat and above his white nightshirt, is colored with expression and the emotion of the scene. He stands tall in defiance of Captain Hook; a look of pure wonder lights his face when the Indians arrive; and genuine fear and concern widen his eyes when Wendy finds herself in trouble.
It’s like my son (and his cast-mates) is not really there in a school gym that doubles as a stage.
And I don’t think he actually is.
When he puts John’s top hat on, when he slips into that nightshirt, he travels far away. He goes to Neverland, where the windows of the nursery really do open to a gas-lit London, where the pirate ship groans and rocks on the sea, where the forest more than painted trees. It really happy thoughts that makes him fly, not the elaborate pulley system they worked so hard to raise money for.
I could it forever and I understand why they call these productions “plays”.
And I’m envious.
Grateful because he’s been gifted this incredible opportunity and that so many incredible people have made this a possibility for all of these kids. I’m ecstatic that my son now wants to try out for the community production of The Lion King, that he has we wants to be in as many plays as he can, and that he wants to be an actor.
But I’m envious just the same, saddened maybe that I can no longer slip into those worlds of wonder, that I’m a stage hand pulling strings and rolling sets, and that I can’t necessary forget that those strings and rope and pulleys are there.
Then I remembered this poem. Even though the speaker speaks of a daughter, the meaning should be clear in my case. Now, I’m even more excited, more grateful, that this weekend, I will get to fly to Neverland with my son.
By: Doug Dorph
I ask my daughter to name the planets.
“Venus …Mars …and Plunis!” she says.
When I was six or seven my father
woke me in the middle of the night.
We went down to the playground and lay
on our backs on the concrete looking up
for the meteors the tv said would shower.
I don’t remember any meteors. I remember
my back pressed to the planet Earth,
my father’s bulk like gravity next to me,
the occasional rumble from his throat,
the apartment buildings dark-windowed,
the sky close enough to poke with my finger.
Now, knowledge erodes wonder.
The niggling voice reminds me that the sun
does shine on the dark side of the moon.
My daughter’s ignorance is my bliss.
Through her eyes I spy like a voyeur.
I travel in a rocket ship to the planet Plunis.
On Plunis I no longer long for the past.
On Plunis there are actual surprises.
On Plunis I am happy.
from Too Too Flesh, Mudfish Individual Poet Series #3, 2000
Box Turtle Press, New York, NY
Copyright 2000 by Doug Dorph.
All rights reserved.