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Another opening, another show

Robert Chipkin's now-adult daughter, Julia Chipkin, has been acting in Massachusetts community theater productions since she was 6.
Robert Chipkin
Robert Chipkin's now-adult daughter, Julia Chipkin, has been acting in Massachusetts community theater productions since she was 6.

Another opening, another show.

Not for me, of course, whose last on-stage appearance was in the 1961 Camp Colang performance of Peter Pan, where at age 11, I was aided by a deft between-the-scenes costume change, to pull off the twin roles of both Wendy’s father and Captain Hook.

These days, by which I mean the last three decades, my ongoing role is enthusiastic audience member and stage dad for my grown-up daughter, who in the blink of a parental eye has gone from "The Little Match Girl" to "Singin' in the Rain," embracing each of her roles in community theater, not for money but for a higher reward: applause.

Seen from afar, it’s all so bewitching, bothering and bewildering, beginning the day long ago when my 6-year-old’s teacher politely inquired if my daughter had a digestive problem, because she so often asked to go to the bathroom. A quick investigation revealed that she was locking herself into a stall so she could hear herself sing every part from “Into the Woods.”

From there, it was a jagged chorus line of auditions, callbacks, disappointments and triumphs in roles as diminutive as "second girl from the left" to the leading lady in “Guys and Dolls.”

Each time she snares a new role, I recall the girl in the stall and smile. And each time the curtain falls and applause fills the room, I ask myself, Why would anyone do anything else?

Just before opening night of a recent production of "A Christmas Carol: The Musical," I await the inevitable "hell week" phone call, when, in stage parlance, the show falls apart — before it invariably falls back together.

As the lights dimmed on the final night of the production, it occurred to me that I’ve come full circle in both my theatrical and parental careers. No more Hook or Darling, I’m at last Peter Pan, the boy who won’t grow up, sustained by Tinker Bell’s magic by way of Shakespeare, that all the world’s a stage.

When the final bows are taken and the stage is struck, it is I who is once more stagestruck at how that cast of former strangers can now openly weep that parting is such sweet sorrow, seeking comfort with promises, promises to meet again once there’s another opening, another show.

Robert Chipkin lives and writes in Springfield, Massachusetts.