Dreaming of Melodrama

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Drama is coming. I know it. I can feel it. It’s not here yet, but I know that soon shall come questions. . . scripts. . . paint and styrofoam flats. . . costumes. . . lines. . . lights. . . cameras. . . action.

It’s coming close. It is. I know it. I’m pulling out scripts-though only for my own enjoyment (and torture!), I’m listening to ‘Side by Side‘, and humming it.

The Fireman’s Flame. Lined up to listen to the directors. Photo credit: Aaron Kessler.

Side by Side our theme song, of sorts. We sing it-along with my Auntie’s wonderful piano playing-at the end of each show, during bows. Then we all run down the stairs, through the aisles, and into the hall. . . and scream, as loud as we can, before lining up.

Drama. Drama is one of my favorite things. My parents started a home school drama group when we first moved here from Iowa, 13 years ago. We are The King’s Players. We start rehearsals in late fall, and put on our melodrama in early spring in my little hometown.

The Fireman’s Flame. Singing ‘We’re Off!” Photo Credit: Amy Young Miller.

I’ve been in three melodramas now. Last year we put on The Fireman’s Flame, by John Van Antwerp. I was Jenny, ‘the girl who lived next to the firehouse’. I fell in love with the villain. Twice. And he broke my heart. Twice. And I threatened him. Then I fell in love with a different fireman, who was less villainous.

Fireman's Flame I can't
Jenny (me!) and the villain, Napoleon Markham.

Last year was Deadwood Dick, or The Game of Gold, by Tom Taggart. Deadwood Dick is one of my top three favorite scripts, and indeed, is one of my whole family’s favorites. I was Molly Loveless, the wife of the Sheriff, and the mother of the blind heroine (though no one knew it, except myself). Only I knew that I had a daughter. . . and a secret about her. But I had given her up when she was born, and had spent the rest of my life looking for her, yearning for her, regretting giving her up; yet still hiding my secret from my husband.

The Fireman's Flame, Molly and Wild Bill.
Molly (me!) and Wild Bill Hickok.

Oh! Another thing I need to tell you about Deadwood Dick. Timothy. My brother. He played Wild Bill Hickok, and he was amazing. (He always is.) He had a long blonde wig on, a blonde mustache, and buckskins. The Best Shot in The West.

Wild Bill and Black'n Red
Hero Wild Bill Hickok, with villain Blackman Redburn. Deadwood Dick photo credits: Aaron Kessler.
Bill and Black'n.
Wild Bill is very intimidating. . . especially to the villain, Black’n Red!

The first year I was in it. . . well, I was a pickpocket. That year we put on Life On The Bowery, or The Liar’s Doom, by Tim Kelly. I was Lila, though I pronounced my name Loila. I had a Bowery accent, and I was a bad pickpocket. I got thrown out of Steve Brodie’s ‘Respectable’ Tough Joint, because I had pick-pocketed ‘once too many’. And because I afterwards got into a fight.

Life On The Bowery
See the girl in bright green and orange? That’s me. And my hat, covered in flowers, with a bird’s nest, an egg, and a bird. I still have, and love, that hat. The guy in the far left corner is my cousin Adam–he played ‘Yale Student’, and he’s the one I pick-pocketed.

And so this year, we should be starting preparations soon. Calling the High School in town to book when we can use the stage, calling the churches we rehearse in to see if it still works for them (these churches, and the people in them, deserve recognition-Thank you so much!), send an email out to see how many people we will have in Drama this year, start pulling out scripts and looking through them for a number close to our cast, ordering scripts and praying they get the number right, try-outs and my parents working hard, deciding who is who, while we wait, for a few days, and then once that’s done we go on to blocking, rehearsals, pulling out box after box of music, and handfuls and armfuls of costumes, and many, many flats and even more paintbrushes and paint cans, and then painting flats, and painting chairs, and making paper-mache horse hind-ends, and trying to find buck-skins that would fit our very tall Wild Bill, and finding the makeup and making sure we have enough of this, enough of that, oh! we need more of this and that.

Mummy, our wonderful director with Aunt Annie, our lovely piano player, and Adam. My cousin.

Making sure everyone has lines memorized, and costumes ready. Hauling the flat and the chairs and the horse hinds to the High School, setting it all up, touching things up, setting up dressing rooms for girls and guys, making sure the makeup is all there and we have enough, make sure we have enough ‘makeup artists’, and that they know what to do, talking to mothers about meals for the week of rehearsals in the High School, organizing it, organizing the fund-raisers, organizing the lighting crew and tech crew and cast. . . not to mention advertising, making flyers, posters, and hanging them up, making shirts and ordering them, and going to fetch them, and possibly going back because they mad a mistake, and then. . . when we are there, finally there, at the High School, and it’s the week of the play, there is still more to do.

Set up tables! Make sure the meal is here! Does everyone have makeup done? What about costumes? Make sure they don’t put their lipstick on until after eating supper! Are the programs done? Are they here? Does everyone have all of their costumes? What about their scripts? Make sure to remind them to look over them before going on stage! Does so-and-so have this prop? That prop? Are the props on the prop table? Make sure to tell them not to play with the props, and to put them back on the prop table! What about the set? Was it set up properly? And then, there’s no more time for checking. Everyone has to be in the Green Room, because people will be arriving any minute! And it’s lights. . . camera. . . music. . .places. . .action!


I say this to show you what my parents do, not what I do. They started this melodrama group because of us. This is something I always have to remind myself of. They don’t do it because they want to have fun.They work very hard, for us. We take weeks off of school, just because we have to get the set done. They work hard, for us. So that we can have this experience. So that we can do the melodramas. And yes, we memorize a few lines. And yes, we may help make those paper-mache horse-hinds. And yes, we might help do makeup. But my mom, and my dad. They do the real work. They’re the ones who are up early making a fire, and painting in the cold sunporch. They’re the ones figuring out the script. And the parts. And the paint. And the set. And the blocking. And the tech and light crew. And. . . everything.

None of us would have this wonderful, amazing chance to be in these melodramas, if it weren’t for Mom and Dad.

So thank you Mom. Thanks Dad. You’re the best parents, the best teachers, and the best directors a person could ever hope for.

I love you.

Drama Bowery1

16 comments on “Dreaming of Melodrama

  1. Katelyn has been talking about melodrama a lot lately. She misses seeing her fellow drama peeps. She is SOOO excited about this coming year! It will be here soon! 🙂

    Thankful for your parents and all of their hard work! This is a great opportunity for homeschoolers and such a blessing!

  2. This is so cool! What a way to bond. When my children were young there was a local community center that had drama for children. They would create a part for whoever showed up! My children loved it.

    Now when my grandchildren are in town I take them to The Blue Door, a local improv theatre. http://www.bluedoortheatre.com

    1. Thank you Candess! That sounds really neat. We try and get a script with as close to how many people we have, but we don’t always al have speaking parts. .. especially since our group is growing so much!
      That looks like a really neat theatre. I love that they have improv lessons! That sounds like a great opportunity.

  3. I have fallen in love, Amalia, with you and your family – you stand for all the beautiful things family life has to offer. I love reading about life in a small town in Nebraska. So refreshing and heartwarming.
    You and your parents are very fortunate to have so much love – and it is clear you don’t take it for granted that things just happen. how joyful!
    As for the musicals – as Candess commented, what a glorious way to bond!
    Big HUGS <3

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