Backstage with “Parenting 101: A Musical Guide to Raising Parents”

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(Charnoff) A new musical revue opening tonight in Burlington gives parents a chance to laugh at the trials and tribulations of raising kids.

The show is called Parenting 101-A Musical Guide To Raising Parents . The show opens in the delivery room, and addresses everything from potty training to puberty, dating and marriage.

Here, a father, despite being an electrical engineer, is unable to assemble a new toy for his daughter.

(Father sings) “Who who can put this together?”
“Those geeks at Mattel are so clever.”
“Directions in five languages”
do I look here but I
can’t tell which is English I think I may cry.”
“Tab “A” is inserted in slot “B””
“Hey, worst of “F” you have got me.”
“What freak was high off of crack putting this together

(Charnoff) Fast forward a decade or so. In this duet, dad is none too happy about his daughter’s new boyfriend.

(Girl) “High School Boyfriends, having a blast…”
(Boy) “High School Boyfriends happened so fast.”
(Girl) Every touch gives me the chills.
(Boy) Where are my blood pressure pills?
(Girl,Boy) High school days can be such a maze.
And now all those high school boys.”

(Charnoff) Parenting 101 was conceived, pun intended, two years ago by Susan Holson of Shelburne, in a late night chat with her sister Nancy Holson of New York City.

This collaboration for a show about parenting seems to make sense. Susan is the co-publisher and editor of Kids Vermont Newspaper. Nancy is the writer and co-producer of the Off-Broadway show Bush Wars, as well as the Emmy-winning show The News in Revue.

Susan Holson, who is co-producing Parenting 101, says that parents don’t often get to laugh about the everyday stress of raising kids.

(Susan) “This is a niche parents who really don’t have a lot of opportunity or encouragement to be able to laugh at the moments of their lives that they really hate at that moment, whether it’s the temper tantrum in the supermarket aisle, or the potty training reward system that you might pick on, it’s funny after the fact. And so this is just a chance for people to enjoy the humor in what they’ve either already lived through of what they have to look forward to.”

(Girl sings) “Mommy and Daddy just came from the store.”
“This is what they chose to buy.”
“Strapped it to that porcelain bowl.”
sat me on top and said try.”
“It’s my potty and I’ll try if I want to.”
“Try if I want to,
try if I want to,”
“Let me ask you
who is training who?”

(Charnoff) Nancy Holson brought in her long-time collaborator Jay Falzone of New York City, to co-write and direct Parenting 101.

Falzone says it was important that the show not be mean-spirited, or mocking of parents and kids.

(Falzone) “I wanted to direct it and choreograph it in a way that showed a great deal of respect for the job of parenting, but in a funny way. So it was the balance of not making them cartoons, keeping them humans, but putting it over the top enough so we could see the silliness of what’s going on.”

(Charnoff) Nancy Holson says that writing Parenting 101 was a good opportunity to set aside the politics and controversy of her New York projects. Holson says she also hopes to bring a spark to theater-going in Vermont.

(Nancy) “I think people in Burlington have very full lives, especially people with their kids, but I don’t think theater is necessarily as big a part of people’s lives here as it is in other places. But you know, I think in life, it’s so important to laugh. Everyday there are things that really tug at your heart, that are disappointments. When you get together with other people who’ve had those experiences and you laugh about them, you feel so much better when you wake up the next morning.”

(Charnoff) Susan Holson agrees that Parenting 101 has therapeutic value.

(Susan) “To take a moment with the other parent in your life and be able to laugh about how you spend your days and how you sometimes forget to communicate with each other, it’s just an opportunity to have fun. I had one mother say to me, someone who had seen it last night, that as far as dealing with parenting stress, this is better than Prozac.”

(Charnoff) That’s the reaction the Holson’s are aiming for with Parenting 101. It opens tonight at Burlington’s Waterfront Theater, and will have an extensive run of 8 shows a week through April 22nd.

For VPR Backstage, I’m Neal Charnoff.

Related Link: Parenting 101 website

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