I sat on a folding chair a week ago waiting for the play, "The Somewhat True Tale of Robin Hood," to begin at the Indianapolis school where my wife teaches and my son is an eighth grader. Both were involved in the play: My wife was the director and my son played Friar Tuck.
The play had been in rehearsals for weeks and I had received nightly accounts of its progress from my wife, Lesly. She was happy with the dress rehearsal the night before. Most of the cast had never acted in a play before. Lesly said that the cast had bonded. They believed in themselves and in one another.
The performance started well. The actors were energized and delivered their lines with gusto and humor. About 15 minutes into the play, however, things hit a rut. Something wasn't right. Prince John was a bit off.
I looked at my program and recognized the name of the boy playing Prince John. But the name of the boy on the program could not possibly belong to the girl on stage playing Prince John.
Something wasn't right.
Other parents in the audience were similarly confused. We didn't learn what had happened until after the play.
Minutes before the play began, the stage manager told my wife that Prince John couldn't go on stage. No amount of coaxing would change his mind.
What now? An understudy. There were no understudies.
My wife asked the stage manager if he could take the script and read Prince John's lines. The boy's face turned ashen. But he bravely said he could.
Julia, a sixth-grade girl who had a minor part as a fawning lady, then walked up to my wife.
"Mrs. Lamb," she said, while putting on Prince John's cape. "I can do this."
"Are you sure?" my wife asked.
"Yes," she said.
"Take the script," my wife said.
"No," Julia said. "I can do it without the script."
She knew the play was in jeopardy. But she put on a cape and stepped into a major role that she had neither rehearsed nor even read.
She needed a little help at times from other cast members. If she missed a line, they guided her or improvised.
The play was a hit.
When it was over and the applause had ended, the girl who saved the play went to my wife and said she was going to stay up that night to memorize all her lines for the next day's two performances.
And she did.
Julia was Prince John the second night. But she was something more the first night. In saving the play, she demonstrated to herself, the cast, and all those watching that she was, my wife said, a "super hero."
She was even wearing a cape.