Tinkerbell’s career takes flight

Today, I assuredly, most definitely and absolutely believe in fairies.

It’s the morning after watching my daughter Emily literally explode from the sky in her role as Tinkerbell in Peter Pan: The Show, and I am awake early because of her hauntingly fabulous performance. 

Now, I have a long tradition of heaping fatheresque praise on Emme’s memorable performances – one of her first was Milky White the cow in the Marblehead Middle School’s production of Into The Woods – but this was different. First of all, she spends much of the two and a half hour show suspended in mid air by two thin-looking cables. They tether her to the earth, but clearly not to reality, as she spittles, growls and yelps her way through the show as a manic femme fatale in a pink tutu.

She did a great job with the time-honored tradition of having the audience bring Tink back to life by confessing their belief in fairies, and otherwise created a Tinkerbell that I quite frankly was unprepared to meet. I won’t go into great detail about her role to preserve the surprises for her older sister and mom,
both of whom will be in LA next week to see the show and might read this posting before they head west.

But I have to comment, as a father and #1 fan, about the evolution of an actress from a little girl who has always loved the stage, the limelight and the thrill of the script.

The 1,200 others at the Orange County Performing Arts Center last night saw Tinkerbell emote and brood, soar and retreat, torment and console, connecting the characters to one another with intensity, inventiveness and humor.

I saw all of this, yes, but I also saw a little girl of six or seven, sitting alongside Andrea Noble in the second-floor auditorium of Marblehead’s Abbot Hall, dressed as babies and doing a skit they learned at Betty Lautner’s theatre school.

I saw her auditioning for the lead in Annie, ignoring the fact that singing isn’t her most endearing theatrical talent and belting out “Tomorrow!”, the possibility of rejection be damned as she once again rolled up her sleeves and went for it at the ripe age of 9 or 10.

As a child with her first agent, she had her face on software packaging and her voice in museum exhibit voiceovers, and these memories coursed through my head as I watched her once again descend from the clouds.

I saw her as an Puck in the Rebel Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, prancing and leaping in a role very similar to the one she has just begun in Costa Mesa and will soon take on the road with her troupe to Atlanta and Chicago after that.

I saw her as in period costume, reciting sonnets at Salem’s Pilgrim Village, and in countless school and theatre school productions, wringing what she could from whatever role she earned, and celebrating in every moment of her time on stage with like-minded cast who shared her passion for performance.

More recently, as she began to find her stride in LA’s entertainment world, I saw her feet in photographs of shoes, her body dancing in music videos and her acting talent showcased in film, commercials and webisodes.

All this ran through my mind as I watched her unveil a very different Tink that combined her enormous personality, technical training and creativity with a role we all know and love.

I saw her in audition after audition, dressing and looking the part, ignoring the odds and setting herself up for rejection.

I saw her grow up, mature and build a healthy relationship with an artform I’ve come to understand a bit through her generous and patient teaching of a well-intended but largely cluess father. The profession is much, much more than we laymen might appreciate: demanding, harsh, judgmental, rewarding, infuriating, compelling.

And on Friday night – just six months out of college from UCLA’s theatre, film and television school having landed her first significant theatrical role – she literally took flight in her 19th performance of a show that will take her across the US and beyond.

It was hard at times to see what she was up to through the tears that clouded my vision as all these images ran on a memory loop in my head. I wasn’t alone, as the woman in the row before me proved, dotting her eyes with a tissue as she made her way from the venue after the show.

“I cried through the whole thing,” she told her daughter, who gently took her elbow to help her down the stairs. “Me, too,” said the daughter, “and that Tinkerbell….”

I couldn’t resist.

“Excuse me,” I said, tapping the mom on the shoulder. “I have to tell you because I am about to explode. I am Tinkerbell’s father.”

“You’re kidding!” she breathed, and launched into platitude after compliment about Tink’s role as the glue that bound the whole incredible show together.

I basked in the glory of the moment, for myself, yes, but mostly for a little girl who believed in herself – and, I suppose, fairies as well – long before the rest of the world caught on to her great secret of immense talent packaged in her diminutive body.

I never had a doubt about Emme’s chances in entertainment: it’s a lock. I’ve seen my little tiger fight the odds again and again, not only unfazed and undaunted by the lousy odds, judgment and rejection but actually made whole by the challenges that come with putting oneself on the line for the chance of a role.

No, there’s never been any doubt that Emme would find success on the stage, in film, or in some form of entertainment that would allow her to make a living by doing what she loves and at which she is so very, very good.

The other people in Friday night’s crowd saw her theatrical debut as Tink.

Me? I saw her as my talented, beautiful and incredible daughter for whom success has long been in the cards – yesterday a little girl in pigtails on a hometown stage; today a professional actor.

She’s Tink for the masses, but I knew her when she was just a cow.

      8 comments

      • Susan Spencer

        A beautiful tribute!

      • mrsgoldie

        Skip, I am in tears reading this!!! What a great experience for Emme (and, most definitely) you! Love to all. I do hope the troupe manages an east coast visit, as we will surely do all that it takes to see her perform!

      • Iris

        Frank ,you made me cry…. You are such a loving and proud Daddy…..

      • Skip, we are SO proud of her too and I only wish the show was playing somewhere nearer us! I was at dinner last night with our new neighbors. Their 14-year old daughter has her heart set on being an actress and I was telling her all about Emme’s breakthrough role and how hard she’s worked to get there. Congratulations, and lots of love from someone who would have loved at one time to be on stage but didn’t have as much talent as your daughter! We can’t wait to watch her keep soaring to new incredible cinematic and theatrical heights -Leelaxoxo

      • Marie Buckley

        Frank, what an inspirational story and a loving tribute. Thank goodness for the fairies on stage – and for all the fairies in our lives! (If only they didn’t have to grow up.)Marie

      • Suzie Weldon

        Having met Emme for the first time at our home a few years ago, I will never forget how mesmerizing she was and how I decided that night that one day we would see her on the big screen or stage. There is no doubt in my mind that she will make it. But as Tinkerbell!!! I dare to say that Tinkerbell was a role she was born to play. She IS like a magical fairie in real life!!! So fly our little Emme, fly to the east coast and give the rest of us a chance to view your talents and fall under your spell!!!

      • Gareth Charter

        Beautiful Frank. You’ve set the bar high for proud fathers!

      • Marshall Bauer

        As I read, I saw a lovely young woman sitting across from me at the Thanksgiving Dinner table. And I remembered my own theatrical ambitions, which– though not materialized– have served me well in a venerable writing career. I will be following her performances with love and admiration. And perhaps, with her father’s literary genes, Emmie will proved as skilled with words.

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