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  • Writer's pictureJerry Della Femina



One of the great challenges of being a parent or a grandparent comes around this time of year, when every grade school and high school puts on an end-of-year play or musical.

I don't have to tell you about the joy of seeing your own flesh and blood standing there on stage, desperately trying to remember their lines.

Sadly, this thrill lasts for only a few minutes. Then comes that moment when you realize your incredibly talented child's one big line or one big song is over and now you have to listen to all these other creepy little kids who, frankly, have no place on the stage compared to your child or grandchild who, with a little luck, can easily go on to become the next Justin Bieber or Lindsay Lohan or Lady Gaga, minus the drugs, drinking, tattoos and shoplifting, of course. As the father of five children and eight grandchildren, I’ve seen hundreds, maybe thousands, of end-of-season school plays. I’ve sat and squirmed in school auditorium seats that were not designed for the average-sized adult ass. But nothing comes close to the worst school play experience of my life. That came a number of years ago when I was summoned by my daughter to view a command performance by two of my grandchildren in a school production of the much-hated Alice in Wonderland. Do you know a single human being who ever liked Alice in Wonderland?

When you talk about over-rated pieces of doo-doo, Alice has to be on the top of everyone's list. And yet, since 1865, when it was first written by Lewis Carroll (while he clearly was on crack), we have had the Alice in Wonderland Conspiracy, which has been passed on from parent to child. Every child comes out of the womb hating Alice in Wonderland, but from the moment they are born they are force-fed the Alice treatment. They get started with musical mobiles spinning Alice characters around their cribs. They are read to sleep by the Golden Book version of the book ... they watch Alice cartoons ... they are forced to sit through Walt Disney's interminable flop version. As they mature, they realize they're bored, but they don't want to break their parents' hearts and tell them that this so-called classic is a stiff. Then they grow up and have children of their own and what do they do? They inflict this moronic, confusing book on their own children. And if that's not bad enough, every once in a while some jerk in the movie business or one of the networks takes a shot at boring the entire nation with still another version of Alice in Wonderland. There's even been a porno version of Alice, in which I believe Alice was played by that presidential favorite Stormy Daniels and, for crying out loud, that was boring, too (er ... er ... that's what they tell me). So there I was, sitting alone in this loud high school auditorium filled with giddy parents warmly greeting their neighbors with a sweet sincerity that you can only find in the suburbs. The show was produced by a sadistic music teacher, who got up and talked about the wonders of Alice in Wonderland. When the show started, it was beyond boring. From 20 feet away every school kid looks alike, so I had no idea which of the kids were my talented grandkids and which were some other grandparents' creepy untalented grandchildren. Every second was an hour. "This is a nightmare," I thought. "This will never end. I'm going to die here." A minute/hour later, the thought of death began to grow on me. I can just see those headlines: "Kindly Old Granddad Dies Happy While Watching Grandkids Perform in Alice in Wonderland" in the Daily News. The New York Post's headline would be: "Was It Murder in Kiddy Theater?" with the subhead, "Did the Mad Hatter Run Amok?" Finally, after what seemed like a month, the lights came up and many of the parents and grandparents gave the performance a standing ovation. One of my legs was lucky enough to have fallen asleep during the dreary show, and my getting up and applauding the piece-of-dreck show was a nightmare. Many mistook my tears of relief for tears of joy. A note for grandparents who are going to be snookered into attending a grandchild's show years from now when the coronavirus is just a bad memory: I know I will be attending another school play when my grandson Teddy, who is six months old now, is two years old. Teddy is clearly so smart that at the age of two he should be in the 6th grade at the Horace Mann School and he will be a star in their end-of-term school play.

Horace Mann is so snooty that they won't be putting on Alice in Wonderland. Instead, Teddy will be starring as George the pathetic husband in Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Now here's a priceless tip on how to make even the worst children's show move along once the lights in the auditorium are dimmed:

Purchase at least 20 little airline-sized bottles of vodka, which you can hide in your pockets and shoes. It's best that husbands and wives work as a team. Grandpa can open the bottle, take a slug and pass the bottle on to Grandma. Grandma can finish off the bottle with one swig and then hide the empty bottles in her purse. I promise, a great time will be had by all. And you can tell your grandkids that you were so filled with emotion by their great performance that your speech became slurred.

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