A Six Year Old Reminds Us of the Power of Musical Theater.

I was at a schmancy business conference several months ago, and I was mingling during the perfunctory after hours nocktails (that wasn’t a typo, btw – I call cocktail hours at a conference “nock-tails” . . . because it’s networking + cocktails = nocktails).

It was a pretty cool event because there were a lot of folks from a lot of different lines of work, and I found myself talking to an investment banker who focuses on emerging markets, a human rights attorney, and a non-profit CEO.

“And what do you do . . . uh . . . Ken,” the investment banker said, his eyes darting across my chest like spotlights, looking for my name on my also perfunctory name tag.

“I produce Broadway musicals.”

I saw one of them (whose job shall remain nameless), smile and chuff, as if to say, “Wow, I’m so much more important than you.  You produce silly entertainment.”  The others started looking around the room for other “important” folks to talk to.

Yep, business conference snobbery.

If ever anyone makes you feel that way (after September 11th, my Mom, who loves the theater, wanted me to go into politics to put my brain to “good work”) or if you ever feel that way, watch the video below of a six year old girl explaining the story of Kinky Boots.

This is a six year old girl that has been taught, by a musical, that “You are in charge of yourself.  No one can tell you what to do.”

Let me repeat that.  This girl is SIX!

At an age when she’s just forming her opinions on the world, and on other people, she’s being taught non-conformity and acceptance (and when you watch, notice how she refers to Lola as “she” throughout the entire video – is that cool or what?).

To quote another musical, talking about being “carefully taught,” and is there anything more important than that?

Great musicals and great plays do what textbooks don’t.  They teach without  the audience knowing they are being taught.

To quote yet another musical, I call this the “spoonful of sugar” approach.  In the theater, we have the power to shape society by entertaining them first, and letting that joy, and the message that goes along with it, resonate through the audience’s lives.

That’s the kind of theater I want to create, and I urge you to do the same.

So Mr. Investment Banker and Laywer and Non Profit CEO, you do important work.  No doubt about it.

But just because we make people smile and laugh and dance in the aisles, doesn’t mean we don’t too.

And if you don’t believe me, perhaps you should hear it from this six year old.  (Email subscribers, click here if you can’t see the video in this post.)


(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)
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  • Ken Davenport says:

    Don’t sweat it, Ken. You’re job just makes you more cultured than those snobs. Keep up the terrific work! 🙂

  • Colt Chambers says:

    Don’t sweat it, Ken. You’re job just makes you more cultured than those snobs. Keep up the terrific work! 🙂

    (Sorry for posting this twice, I accidentally typed your name the first time in the name section.)

  • Felicia says:

    What a great outlook on life this 6-year-old has — inspired by theater. I’m inspired by her!

  • Sam Friedman says:

    This little girl is so smart and cool. She’s already got more on the ball than 99% of the closed-minded idiots in Congress!

  • Lloyd says:

    I love this. The theatre is so important. I just saw the documentary about Roger Ebert — Life Itself. Fantastic! The most memorable part for me was when Roger described why he loves the movies. He said that going to see a movie allows us to empathize with other people and their lives and situations. How true this is of the movies and the theatre! We can become better people through our empathy for others. Truth.

  • Norma Kramer says:

    You bet you can learn from musicals ! It does not matter whether you are 6 or 60 ! I saw a brand new Off Broadway ROCK MUSICAL with a live band tonight and I learned and re-learned alot. That musical is ATOMIC. It tells the fascinating personal stories of the men and women who developed the atomic bomb. The music is terrific and their stories make a most unusual topic for a musical but….guess what ? It works and it works beautifully. I think it will be a BIG HIT! It opens this SUNDAY, JULY 13th so if you want to learn and be entertained get tickets to see ATOMIC ! It is playing at the ACORN theatre, Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd St. at 9th Ave.

  • Please SIGN this little girl now to an exclusive contract for ANYTHING.
    This isn’t a child actress. This is an emerging personage!

  • Paula says:

    Theater enriches us with knowledge and pleasure. It stirs the emotions, fantasies, and realities of life that are part of our lives. We are richer for the
    experience. Lucky are we who can attend the theater. Carry on, Ken.
    I saw this video recently and was amazed at her presentation. I do wonder who
    guided her in this understanding. If this was her own conclusion, that is
    amazing. I speak as an educator and parent.

  • Liz says:

    Your column made me think of a time when I took my young son to see Peter Pan in a local movie theater. Since it was a morning show, there was no one there except the two of us. When Peter began to fly so did we…all around that theatre we ran arms flapping. Maybe it was his introduction to Musical Theatre…maybe that’s why he now loves to perform. It’s all about the joy!

  • George Rady says:

    Oh I wouldn’t take it that harsh…

    I remember making my seminar pitch that staging “Oliver” with as many kids from the community could save the Delaware Opera’s season (which has since gone defunct) and the only reaction I got was “Opera – Money Loser” so there is a bit of – not “snobbery” – but practicality to go around…

    Being that this was a gathering of Investors – the goal is not “how” you make your money but that you can take a client’s money and Return 10% – at Least! – the more the better and DEFINITELY NOT LOSE IT!!!

    So investment in the Theatre has a deserved bad rep in the Investment Community (not as bad as “airlines” or “automobiles” btw) so the reaction is… not a great way to make your client’s money back…

    And I think that was born out by the Investor’s Survey where most (if I remember correctly) of the people who invest in the Theatre… are people IN the Theatre… precisely because they know and are comfortable with the 1 in 10 ROI i.e. expect to lose money in 9 shows but make it back and more by the 10th

    This is waaaay too risky for the people I know… and unecessarily so… when there are much more things to invest in that DO stand a (much) better chance of returning 10% or greater.

    So I expect the reaction would be similar is I attended a Musical Theatre Investment gathering and boasted that I was going to take the lead in revyving the New York City Opera and compete with the Met! (which is in the offing btw)

    I wouldn’t be slighted if that group did not appreciate my passion…


  • Ed Katz says:

    Love it, Ken!
    You rock! Rock on!

  • diane uniman says:

    If this isn’t the BEST, most HEARTWARMING, most ENCOURAGING endorsement for the WHY of being a writer in theater and film writing FUN, HUMOROUS pieces with a POWERFUL and IMPORTANT MESSAGE, I don’t know what is!!!! This is THE “IT” OF IT ALL!!! THANK YOU FOR POSTING THIS…..I LOVE THIS INSPIRING LITTLE GIRL!!!!!!!! Hugs to you, little one!!!!

  • Debbie Saville says:

    I believe Albert Einstein said it best. “I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination… Imagination is more important than knowledge, for knowledge is limited, imagination embraces the world.”

    And I always say…
    See the world with childlike wonder, know there are endless possibilities, then bring it to the theatre stage 🙂

  • kevin Davis says:

    Amen nuff said!

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