Meet Arena Stage's "youth Wrangler" (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

Transcripts

Meet Arena Stage's 'Youth Wrangler'

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:09
Welcome back to "Metro Connection." I'm Rebecca Sheir and on today's show, we're talking about youth. So far, we've heard about youth who inspire their dad to write a book, youth who've lost their place to play and...

MS. ALEXANDRIA WOOD

00:00:21
Watch out, there's a sousaphone on the floor.

SHEIR

00:00:23
In this next story...

WOOD

00:00:25
All right, so quick, quick, rehearsal shoes. Put your stuff away.

SHEIR

00:00:28
We'll hear about youth who are in a play.

WOOD

00:00:30
All right, kids. What are we doing from 4:00 to 6:00?

WOOD

00:00:34
Staging. From page 107 onward?

WOOD

00:00:37
Yes. So like Wells Fargo Wagon?

WOOD

00:00:39
I think it's the end. The play's only 116 pages long.

SHEIR

00:00:42
All you musical theater buffs out there have probably guessed the play in question is "The Music Man," opening this weekend at Arena Stage in Southwest D.C. And the woman corralling our young actors into rehearsal...

WOOD

00:00:54
All right, go, go.

SHEIR

00:00:57
...is Alexandria Wood.

WOOD

00:00:59
And I am the young actor coordinator for Arena Stage and "The Music Man" right now.

SHEIR

00:01:03
How long have you been doing that at Arena?

WOOD

00:01:05
Since March, maybe late February of this year.

SHEIR

00:01:10
Before "The Music Man," Wood worked on Eugene O'Neal's "Ah, Wilderness."

WOOD

00:01:13
But my first wrangling job was with "A Christmas Carol."

SHEIR

00:01:17
The annual production at Ford's Theater.

WOOD

00:01:18
And I had 13 kids in that.

SHEIR

00:01:20
In "The Music Man" she has five and that word she just used...

WOOD

00:01:24
Wrangling.

SHEIR

00:01:24
...is actually a technical term. Actors Equity is the labor union representing actors and stage managers and in production contracts, it uses wrangler and child guardian to refer to the folks who supervise actors under age 16. Though, while researching this story, I found theater folks employ all sorts of names for the job.

SHEIR

00:01:43
Shepherd, child welfare goddess, cheerleader, part guidance counselor, part best friend.

WOOD

00:01:49
Those are all pretty accurate. We're basically a little bit of a person assistant, little bit of a stage manager just for the kids. So the amount of patience involved definitely makes one a goddess, I think.

SHEIR

00:02:02
And that goddess is responsible for a whole lot of stuff, from teaching proper theater etiquette.

WOOD

00:02:08
When to be quiet, when to pay attention, how to walk around a rehearsal room in the most constructive manner, least disruptive manner.

SHEIR

00:02:14
To filling down time with school work or games.

WOOD

00:02:17
We play a lot of cards, a lot of Speed, which I haven't played since I was 10.

SHEIR

00:02:22
To practicing lines and dance steps.

WOOD

00:02:23
You know, I don't necessarily have to be able to dance on stage with everybody else, but I need to know what the steps are so that if our choreographer and dance captain are busy and the kids are needing to spend energy, we can do a dance step and I can make sure that they're all doing it right.

SHEIR

00:02:39
Wood also collects the kids for rehearsal. On a sunny Friday afternoon, I join her at Arena's Stage door.

SHEIR

00:02:44
All right, so who are we waiting for?

WOOD

00:02:46
We are waiting for Mia and Heidi and Jamie, our three girls.

SHEIR

00:02:49
Where are they coming from?

WOOD

00:02:50
School. And one of them goes to school in Virginia and one goes to school in Maryland and one goes to school here in D.C.

SHEIR

00:02:56
Mia Goodman plays Susie Squires, Heidi Kaplan plays Amaryllis, Jamie Goodson plays Gracie Shinn and when they arrive with their mothers, the girls seemed thrilled to see Wood.

MS. HEIDI KAPLAN

00:03:05
She's awesome.

WOOD

00:03:06
Honestly.

SHEIR

00:03:07
She's awesome you said?

MS. JAMIE GOODSON

00:03:08
Yes.

MS. MIA GOODMAN

00:03:08
Yes.

GOODSON

00:03:09
She's spectacular.

SHEIR

00:03:10
But the mothers seem pretty jazzed, too. Here's Heidi's mom, Kirsten.

MS. KIRSTEN KAPLAN

00:03:14
Without the child wrangler, this could never happen because the parents would never be able to just leave their children, you know, so honestly to us, she's the most important person here.

SHEIR

00:03:22
A big part of what sets parents' minds at ease is how much Wood is dedicated to safety and health. Not only is she certified in First Aid, but she keeps track of stuff like medications and allergies.

WOOD

00:03:33
I've had a couple of kids that have Epipens and so I know where those are. I keep them with me. I haven't had to use them yet so that's good.

SHEIR

00:03:40
But Alexandria Wood, of course, deals with more than just physical health. Given some of those nicknames for her gig, cheerleader, part guidance counselor, part best friend.

WOOD

00:03:50
Those are all pretty accurate.

SHEIR

00:03:51
She's also key in the mental health department.

WOOD

00:03:54
Definitely.

SHEIR

00:03:55
Because remember, these kids are basically working a full-time job in a primarily grown up industry.

WOOD

00:04:01
So I've already had to have the conversation at least once or twice in each cast so far of, you know, I know this is stressful. I know this is hard, but this is an opportunity and you're so lucky to be here. And if you remember all of the parts that you love, then they totally outweigh the parts that aren't so fun.

MS. MOLLY SMITH

00:04:21
All right. Let's go from the first moment with Harold.

SHEIR

00:04:24
And as "Music Man" director, Molly Smith, rehearses the end of the show with our young actors...

MR. BURKE MOSES

00:04:29
Think, man, think.

SHEIR

00:04:32
You can tell they're having plenty of fun.

SHEIR

00:04:40
Thanks in no small part to a downright fun American musical and, yes, a wrangling, cheerleading shepherd with a knack for organization and safety and an abundance of goddess-like patience.

SHEIR

00:04:56
"The Music Man" runs through June 22nd at Arena Stage. For ticket information and to see photos of the show's young actors, visit our website, metroconnection.org.
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