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Comic Parenting Guilt

The inaugural Hutchmoot in 2010 was something else. All the speakers were amazing. Walter Wangerin, Jr. was masterful. Months later, Wangerin visited San Diego to see the premier of the Lamb’s Players Theatre production of his The Book of the Dun Cow. Chauntecleer and Cockatrice battled it out above the stage suspended by theatrical wires. It was awesome.

There is a small café next to the theatre and during intermission Leanne and I sat chatting with Walter Wangerin. We mentioned Hutchmoot.

“You’re some of those young musicians then,” he said.

“No, just fans of the musicians, and of writers like you,” we replied.

I added, “Clearly, you have never heard me sing.”

We discussed writing and his writing process and publishing and some small talk I cannot remember anymore.

The mission of Lamb’s Players Theatre is to “tell good stories well.” It’s one of the most simply stated mission statements I have ever read. Over the years we’ve spent quite a bit of time at Lamb’s and so have experienced their mission statement in action. They fulfill their mission with abandon. When Les Misérables made the lineup for Lamb’s 2014 season, I knew we had to take the kids.

Our oldest daughter saw the movie. That’s one of my major parenting regrets, that I took her to see that royally stupid movie before taking her to the theatrical production. Just one more topic to discuss with her therapist some day. “So then Eponine sings, ‘…a stranger’s just a stranger…’ and like literally a stranger walks right by her. And I am wondering, what am I missing? Tom Hooper must think I’m like an imbecile.” “Hmm. So, your parents took you to see the movie before the Broadway production?” “Yes.” “We’re going to need at least three more sessions,” says her therapist jotting something down on a yellow legal notepad.

Well anyway, for now we’ve been listening the 1996 Royal Albert Hall recording of Les Misérables in preparation for seeing the show at Lamb’s. I’m feeling some guilty defensiveness, because we are taking our 9-year-old. She’s read The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Charlotte’s Web, all of which contain themes at least as mature as what she will see at Les Misérables . . . minus the innkeeper and his wife . . . and “Lovely Ladies,” which on our drive home the other night Leanne paused then looked at me with saucer eyes and said, “You better explain.” Bridget played it cool as I bumbled through the details Fantine’s fate.

I keep having conversations in my mind. “Look, I saw a 5-year-old at Batman: The Dark Night. That was wrong. But Les Mis is one of the most moving stories ever penned and then adapted for the stage. Plus, she’s at an 8th-grade reading level.” Saint Augustine just shakes his head. “It’s a comedy not a tragedy, Augustine. The pleasure is in the redemption not the suffering.” “Sure reminds me of Carthage,” he says.

Okay. Maybe at least two of our daughters will need therapy. I’ll have to report back in a few days after the show. But shows like Les Misérables are a kind of therapy in their own right. The kind that makes you worse then eventually better. This world is so harsh. So awful. Who needs to see tragedies in ancient Carthage when we have headlines in modern-day Mosul? Bring on the comedies that mess us up at a young age, giving us hope and teaching us to rejoice that, despite the odds and the injustice and the bloodshed, even so, through tears in our eyes we will see redemption win the day.Come with meWhere chains will never bind youAll your griefAt last, at last behind you.Lord in Heaven,Look down on him in mercy…To love another personIs to see the face of God!


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