All the world’s a stage

The other day as I was going into the sauna, I walked right into a boy’s shirt that was hanging from the door on the inside. On the shirt, there’s a note – in Son’s handwriting – that says: “Costume #2, “Dad”, sophisticated Q725”.

Son has always been making all kinds of plays. He’s gone to a drama school for five years, he’s been in a movie, and he’s currently in a comedy show, but he’s always liked to tell stories and jokes, and perform. My mother bought him a microphone stand when he was two, and apparently, that was his thing. (After a joke, he’d press a button with his tiny foot to start up the laugh track).


He’s glued paper men onto popsicle sticks and made shadow plays, he’s used puppets, he’s done one-man shows and he’s written plays with his friends, and last summer, he started “International Movies Inc” with the neighborhood kids.

I think the script for “Sherlock Holmes and the Curious Case with the Diamonds” was a result of all of them collaborating, but it was in the can, Son locked himself up in the darkest corner of our basement with a laptop with a “Director/editor” sign on the door and put the movie together while his cast and crew went outside to play, including Daughter, who is to Son what Leo DiCaprio is to Martin Scorsese.

She’s his most loyal cast member, who repeats everything he says like an echo. Just like when she was two years old and tried to say “I am a robot” wearing a robot mask, because that’s what Son had said.

Only, what came out was “I am a bobo”, now a family classic.

In third or fourth grade, it was my class’s turn to put up our school’s Christmas play. Our play didn’t have a baby Jesus in it, but instead a team of evil trolls, and one good one who ends up helping Santa. Nobody wanted to be the good troll – how boring – and our teacher cast me in the role.

It went fine – not a line was missed – but it was the first and last time I stood on a stage in a play.

I used to write my little plays that we used to set up in the living room of our one-bedroom Helsinki apartment, I somehow always ended up being cast as the hero, most often a prince. We did comedy sketches and short plays while our parents were being entertained in the main area of our theatre. An hour, two hours later, we’d emerge from our rehearsal studio where we’d improvised stuff, and I’d written more on the fly while lying on my bed. (I was so committed to art that I slept in the rehearsal studio).

And I do mean ended up because even though I was the playwright/director, I didn’t cast myself in that role. I liked being the writer guy, but I didn’t particularly enjoy standing alone under the spotlight of the green living room floor lamp.

But since I was the oldest one in our group, and since somebody had to kiss the princess on the cheek, I did it for art.

On the other hand, I had put that scene into the play.

Two weeks ago, I bought Lucas Moodysson’s latest movie “We are the best” on a DVD so that I could give it to Dad. As soon as he got through the door, we put the DVD in the player and fast forwarded it into one of the final scenes of the movie in which the cast of characters is sitting around a big table having dinner. When the scene opens, you can see a young boy’s head in the foreground. Then he gets up and starts opening Christmas presents with Bobo, the main character.

“Johan” says his few lines and the scene ends. That “Johan” is Son, and it was a strange to see the Present Day Son sit on our sofa watching me and Dad watch the 2012 Son on TV.

But even though that was special and cool – very cool – and even though it fills me with pride, it was nothing compared to what I felt when I saw Son on a real stage in front of a real audience for the first time a couple of months ago. He’s a part of a special surprise number at the end of a major comedy show in Stockholm, in which he comes out and sings a duet with a girl his age.

The first time I saw that was at the dress rehearsal, and I was sitting way in the back on the balcony, on a bench behind the last row of seats. First came out the girl, and sang her first verse, then fifteen seconds later, out marched Son, slowly as if enjoying every step into the limelight, and then he sang his first verse.

By the time they got to the chorus which they sing together, I didn’t know what to do. I was laughing and crying, standing up and sitting down at the same time, and I just half-stood up and held my hands on my head, lip syncing the song to the end, as if that would help Son remember the lyrics, and as if that was ever in question.

And then they came to the end: a standing ovation. Take a bow.

The man in the back quickly wiped a tear off his face.

Last weekend, I walked between two theatres to see both Son and Daughter in their drama school finales. For Daughter, it was a big day because it was her first play. She had told me a little bit of her play, but not much, because she didn’t want to spoil it for me. But she told me it had something to do with a toy store.

In the play, all dozen kids played a certain kind of toy, and their teacher would then turn them on and they’d do tricks. First the dancer, then the pianist, and then, finally, the three children in their silver suits got to stand up.

“What is this, what are these shiny machines,” said the teacher.

Daughter walked to the edge of the stage, looked out and said:

“I. Am. A. Robot.”

And then: a standing ovation. Take a bow.

The man in the back quickly wiped a tear off his face.

On stage.

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