It seems there’s a shortage of the old Hollywood Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland “Hey, kids - let’s put on a show!” exuberance.
My son Gideon (a.k.a. magician The Amazing Gideon) was devastated to learn that lack of participation resulted in his middle school’s talent show being canceled twice in the same school year.
I’m sure the singers, dancers, acrobats, musicians, comedians and martial artists at most schools are thriving; but surely Gideon’s isn’t the only school where a problem exists.
Extracurricular clubs, afterschool jobs and dysfunctional families can play havoc with talent show participation. And the teen years can be an awkward time, when if you’re not the star quarterback or the Class Brain, you just want to stay under the radar and survive the experience.
For many teens, a talent show is like Public Speaking and Raising Your Hand In Class had a baby and you have to change its diaper.
It’s ironic. Youngsters are all “Me Me Me”...but they don’t want to do anything that makes them self-conscious.
Perhaps talent shows have also lost some of their appeal because we’ve lowered the bar so much. Who needs arduous rehearsals of human pyramid building or intricate rope twirling if you can get a blue ribbon just for picking the wrong bathroom?
I can understand school administrators observing caution in regard to wardrobe malfunctions and song lyrics, but maybe they could loosen up on other restrictions that limit talent show participation. You know, rules such as “We welcome one-man bands, as long as they are diverse in nature.”
Perhaps faculty members could be a little more enthusiastic about drumming up interest. I understand the “quality control” issues that can make try-outs an ordeal. There’s a YouTube video titled “12 year old nails it during a middle school talent show,” but what teachers so often encounter could better be described as “12 year old duct tapes it during a middle school talent show.”
Parents should encourage their children to come outside their comfort zones and share their talents, even if it’s only in the Synchronized Sighing And Rolling The Eyes category.
Talent shows are indispensable for many reasons. They can build self-esteem, confidence and teamwork.
If you’re truly destined to be a star, they can be a splendid launching pad. If you’re probably fated to have a humdrum adult life, they can provide that one uninhibited blaze of glory you’ll treasure for decades.
If you want to re-brand yourself as the talented kid instead of the fat kid or the clumsy kid or the booger-eating kid, here’s your chance. (Unless, of course, your stool disintegrates under you while you’re juggling hardened mucus.)
Some communities tout talent shows as a way to combat juvenile delinquency.
Sure, I can see that. (“Go knocking down mailboxes with the gang? Nah, nothing sticks it to The Man like reciting ‘I’m a little teapot, short and stout’ in front of 500 parents. Power to the people!”)
Let’s all celebrate the good things about talent shows - just as long as the participants don’t go power-mad.
“Thank you, thank you for your applause. Now that you’ve turned me into a celebrity for making my ventriloquist dummy sound vaguely like the shop teacher with sinus congestion and a paper bag over his head, I feel eminently qualified to second-guess the class treasurer’s records, reassign the lunch lady’s parking space and...”
— Danny Tyree can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.