“If we both have freedom, we belong to each other even more.” Mmm, the truth—from a ninth grader. Not quite a babe.

SteppingStone Theatre in St. Paul, Minnesota is currently in the midst of their production of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Nightingale” by Randy Sue Latimer. The original score, by Gary Rue, provided a delightful mix of tunes that let the truth shine right through: the best of friendships include space and belonging.Steppingstone Theatre

Kitchy? No, not really. Upbeat, positive, infectious. Really, sitting there, watching these youth perform a wonderful story about the truth of true friendship was like the exhilarating effect of going for a run or sitting at home watching a comedy on DVD, however it was so much better. There were real, live people in front of us, giving it their all, lifting us all into a lighter place.

Growing up in children’s community theater,

I had lots of flashbacks from all those shows I used to do. Since I left children’s community theater, I’d never seen such a performance until tonight. It was refreshing, it was beautiful, it was funny, and the best part of all: each person got a chance to shine in her or his unique way. The costuming was fun and brilliant, age appropriate and unique. Each performer had a distinctly unique costume yet they were all somewhat similar. Everybody had at least two lines and everyone was on-stage for the chorus parts; everybody had plenty of stage time. Some performers didn’t have their lines until the second part and it was like waiting on pins and needles and I kept thinking “Well, when does she get her lines?” “When does he?” It was a thrill to watch it all unfold.

What a relief!

Yes, a relief for me to see that not everyone is Girl #3. Yep, that was me in children’s and youth/adult community theater: Girl #3. Blech. I remember in “Oklahoma” I got to wear this great, green gingham dress. But because I was Girl #3 I had to sit lower down on the front steps of the stage, partially in the shadows, looking up at Girl #1. (It seemed she always got the solos.) “Guys & Dolls” was a bit different. There were only two girls and we got to dress up as boys and sing in “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat,” too. Because we played girls and boys we got more stage time. Yes, it was still in a bigger group, but we were on stage. That was what we were there for in the first place!

So all hat's off to Steppingstone for creating a place where everybody belongs. Mission accomplished! Every cast member belonged to the group, yet they had their own space. And gender-blind, color-blind casting to boot. Brilliant. Simply brilliant.

Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Nightingale” runs now through August 2, 2009. Take your friends! Tell your neighbors! Enjoy the show!

Steppingstone Theatre:  a definite presence.