I got yet another request for help with the spring show, this time trying to outline just what you will be doing as a volunteer. I haven't followed her link yet, I probably should as I have every intention of being there. It just boggles me that people will be involved in the skating program to some degree and yet not give their time to help out with the shows. That's supposed to be a big bonus, right? Being in the show?
In any organization like this, parent volunteers end up being a critical players. Shunned, ignored, largely muted and thankless players, but players nonetheless. If you decide to volunteer, (which you should) do not expect a plaque or party afterwards. Just take comfort and pride in the fact you did your good deed for the year and smile. Just show up, offer to help, and go in the direction you're pointed.
What you will NOT do is; Be in Charge to any Degree. Sorry, someone else has that role, for better or for worse, and even if you vehemently disagree, you just have to smile and grit your teeth. Choreograph anything. Sorry. As a parent you are inherently biased to your own, so you cannot provide an objective and fair eye that will give every child a moment. (Read my endless whining about Winter Show for an example.) You will not decide on costumes, music, lighting, effects, blocking, rehearsal times, who is coaching your kid, and how your kid performs. Any and all interference from you will be sniffed out and negated. (We had an angel at one point who told us her mom had given her orders to upstage Gabriel. Considering this kid was twice the size of the other angels, we nixed that and warned off mom. For 42nd Street another kid was told by mom to "just go to the center" and ignore the blocking. Faced with the threat of being kicked from the show, kid wisely ignored mom.) Just go with the flow, smile, help out and have some wine when it's done. It's okay. (Repeat this endlessly.)
During Winter Show, I noticed that there were two places where volunteers were missing yet needed the most. One big spot was ID Checker. The other was in the Dressing Rooms. I found myself wanting a stunt double just to help out in there, even though the sight of a dodgeball now puts my eye in a twitch. Beyond the high profile costuming job, the up-top-and-out-of-the-way perch of spotlight, the smiling ticket taker and usher, the "get it done early" gig of painting the sets, there is the rock bottom, down and dirty work of Dressing Room Monitor and ID Checker at the entries to the Dressing Rooms.
Folks, these jobs are critical. Beyond critical. They are vital to the safety and well-being of the reason the show is happening at all; the performers. The kids.
When I was in the dressing room, there were two kinds of parents. The first kind were the ones who loitered in the rooms for no other visible reason than to ensure that their own children were safe from the common rabble. Nutso (remember her?) was chronic at this. When she arrived, she expected her children's costumes laid out and ready, their marked spaces clean. During the show she sat with her own kids and only a few times spoke to other children, usually to warn them away from her own, lest her children mess up their costumes or makeup. At the end of the evening, she departed in a flurry of Coke cans and candy wrappers, leaving her kid's costumes in a pile. Another set of parents brought pizza for their own crew, so the other kids circled them like a pack of wolves at bay. This was just cruel, and of course they left pizza mess in their wake. Of course, the alternative to Nutso and other HawkMoms was the Parental Disappearing Act, where parents would arrive, dump their kids with a bag of snacks and/or stuff and leave the monitor with a kid who has no idea how to tie a shoe, much less a skate.
Dressing Room Monitors need to be aware of just how important they are. They need to be called before the performers, handed a sewing kit, basic first aid pack, pack of tissues, an intimidating ID badge and a flask of Jameson. Dressing Room monitors will be putting little uncoordinated kids in sometimes difficult costumes, often with the "help" of mom, grandma, Coach and possibly a sibling. The child may or may not be crying. They will be resewing buttons, maribou and sequins. They will be applying and tying skates and making sure blade guards are labeled and kept up with. When the blade guards get lost, they will be drying tears and consoling parents about the irreplaceable loss. (Sarcasm.) They will keep kids occupied, safe and contained while the kids wait to go on. (I brought a bunch of games.) They will be listening for the call of Coaches, lining up the kids, and wishing kids well as they go to perform. When the kids come back, they will be checking costumes and kids for damage and reapplying blade guards. At the end of the evening, they will help kids and parents put away costumes; this means back in the dress bag and re-hung or laid over the assigned chair. (Stress to children the importance of neatness and order.) Pick up trash and toys, reorganize the room for the next sucker the following night, and go home to a drink. This is important work, no joke. A bad dressing room experience can sour a family forever on a show.
The other critical role that I saw ignored was ID Checker at Dressing Room doors. I was never asked for my ID badge. Never. This kind of frightened me, because if I was getting through to where the kids were being stashed, who else was? Don't assume that just because it's a family rink and we all tend to know each other, that everything is safe. While I was running spot I saw two folks who were "sketchy" in my book; Alone, never seen them before, kinda funny looking and didn't speak to anyone. Had they been taking pictures, I would have politely asked which kids were theirs, ya know? If I could breeze by the ID Checker talking on her cell phone, could they? Yes, I know Gramma, Grandpa, Auntie June, Uncle Ernie, Brother James and Sister Jane all want to go see Muffy in the dressing room to bring her flowers. But Muffy is sharing a dressing area with dozens of other little girls who will collectively freak out if they are seen in their panties, and we don't want that. Have all the relations wait in the lobby so Muffy can come to them for flowers. It just works better that way. I don't care if Grampa is loudly threatening to call his lawyer, for the sake of the other children, don't let him pass! (Besides. it's a bit of a power trip!)
What if Muffy tries to leave the Dressing Area on her own, without an adult? Ah, then it's you, Trusty ID Checker to turn her right around and send her back. I don't care how much she whines that she has a dollar for a candy bar or hates the taste of the water fountain in that other hallway, send her froufy little butt back in there! When mom comes looking frantically for Muffy with an Angry Dad and Frazzled Coach, you can easily point to her dressing area and rest easy. Another child, safe and sound for another performance.
With the number of kids in that show, I would imagine that every parent could volunteer only once and there would be an overflow of free labor. But the emails are telling me otherwise. I was a Scout, so volunteering has been beaten into my brain pretty much from day one. I can't sit next to a candy wrapper for more than five minutes before I get the urge to throw it away. Yes, it's dirty and gross. Someone else left it there, and I'm sure he's a jerk. No one may notice at all and I may not get a thank you, but I left the rink that much better than how I found it and that's a good day.
Sign up. At the very least, you'll come away with a hella good story. Just ask me about the time that kid spit on the floor.