Acting Like Adults

The Adventures of Leigh Hooks in Children's Theatre

Cast No Shadow

Fear. The thing that holds us back. That death grips and headlocks our ambitions and mines the veins of our goals. Fear.

I tell the kids: “Try it. Try something. If you don’t try I will think you’re lazy. I don’t have time for lazy. Be willing to risk and gain. Right now, in this room, you have nothing to lose. Try it again. Like you mean it.” Working with Middle School kids is riddled with pit falls. They are so afraid of everything: of themselves, what their peers will say or think, what they look like, how they will look, what might happen if they fail. They are so stuck thinking within themselves, at many points, they miss opportunities to expand themselves. To think of something else besides how they appear. I always have a hard time getting them to loosen up and explore what is around them. More importantly: What is inside of them.

In many ways the self conscious road of middle schoolers reflects on all of us. How do we act in society? How do we represent our company with out presence? How are we perceived in the world? All though, for those of us outside of puberty, I still find myself afraid for no good reason at all. I fear that I will not be able to give the kids I teach what they need. That I cannot fulfill their needs and wants out of what I do. They expect me to be an all knowing prefect being of exceptional talent. As a teacher, I don’t have the option to fail. I need to lead these kids in the path of the show and gain as much trust as possible even if it is into the jaws of hell.  But I still fear that I will not meet their expectations and I will fail them, the residency, my partner, my company and myself. The fear is unnecessary. I know what I’m doing and how to do it. I know that I’m good at it. I know that I go into work everyday without the conscious presence of fear. But it will always be somewhere stalking me, waiting, hungry.

Naturally, for the kids, to have no fear is to show you have no fear. Walk with confidence and have complete faith in what you are about to do. Even if you know it’s the worst decision ever. My clown teacher, Ronlin Foreman, told my class: “You must stop all the wars! You must go into Afghanistan, Iraq, Darfur, The Ivory Coast and stop all the killing. When they put you up against the wall, ready to kill you. You had better damn well be funny.” That was week 3 of clown. In life, perhaps the game of life and death, there is no room for fear. Fear does not take control. Fear does not cripple you. Fear does not exist. Fear cannot exist. Fear takes us away from what we are doing. Away from our passion, our play, our joy. With no guarantee of success we have to risk as much as possible to take success. Steal it. Be opportunistic scavengers. Life is take or be taken. We must risk. We must try. Fight for what we want without being afraid of not having it. Be decisive, be spontaneous, be anything! Be exceptional.

The kids don’t always understand how passionate I am about risk and I think they take it as me being mad at them sometimes. I’m not mad at all. They need a teacher and I need someone to teach. I need to know where they are comfortable and where I can push them. Make them step farther and father from the safety of shore until they are in the middle of the ocean swimming towards the island in the fog. But not alone. I’m with them. As an ensemble we are never alone. We are always together listing in the tides keeping each other from drowning. The question of death never comes up. We are not afraid together and I am not afraid alone.

With Love, All the Best, Safe Travels,

Leigh Hooks


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5 thoughts on “Cast No Shadow

  1. I think the difference between the fear of middle schoolers and the fear of us “adults” is that they are afraid of who they are becoming and we are afraid of who we have already become. The students trying to exhibit whatever power they have and the adults not knowing or understanding the power we hardly want. Damn. I miss tour.

    • I think people in general change in certain ways fairly regularly. As an “adult” the changes may become more subtle juxtaposed with the soul crushing puberty/social drama that is the constantly fluxing middle school atmosphere. At Dell’Arte we had to face who we are and present it to an audience as a funny thing for our clown block. I remember I was incredibly afraid, not of who I had become but because I had never taken the time to know myself. I was afraid of discovering and exploring the inner-verse. If you miss tour that much I sure we could use a summer player.

      • I think tour is a good and bad place to explore the inner-verse. There is lots of time and space for reflection, but generally lacking the situations that help me reflect who I am socially and how that deeper understanding translates to the outer-verse.

        So no, I can not tour this summer. I am directing Annie in Vermillion this summer. If you are still on tour this summer, you will most likely be staying at my house, though! There will be tons of fresh green vegetables, microbrews and wine. Just sayin.

      • Yeesh! I’m much to busy and preoccupied to explore any verse outside of teaching but, the expansive and desolate landscapes of Dakota leave lots of time for reflection. And writing!

        Well, I’m waiting to hear back from a couple things so I don’t know if I’ll be on tour this summer. But I might run into you anyway. I know people in Vermillion.

  2. Jennifer on said:

    Perfectionism…a buddy to fear. It’s that grappling notion, holding a child inward, as they fight to decide what’s acceptable. But as perfectionism wins, an invaluable opportunity may be lost.

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