Disney Channel Kid

When I was 9 years old, my mother, sister, and I moved to Evansville, Indiana, a few hours away from where I we grew up.  It was a tough move, as I would be going to a new school and meeting new people.  As the new kid who was the principal’s son, I wasn’t exactly the most popular kid in school.  I spent many nights in front of the TV while everyone else was out at the dances and football games.  Every night I escaped to another world of kids living lives much more interesting than my own.  Out of all of these shows, I always felt an attachment with Doug from the hit Nickelodeon cartoon series in that he was just an average, everyday kid that wasn’t popular, only having one friend and a couple other acquaintances.  It wasn’t until recently that I realized the phenomenon that this show was based on; glamorizing the normal life.

By the time I got to High School, I felt like I was probably too old to be watching the Disney Channel, (but I did anyway).  It was these special years that I was exposed to great Disney Channel original movies such as Zenon, Girl of the 21st Century, the story of a girl who gets sent to live on earth from her space station and learns the value of simple life including garden flowers and fried food.  I pretended not to know about Wish Upon a Star, which can only be described as a cross between Freaky Friday and Mean Girls, (Both of which are excellent films).  When working on a stage crew for Shakespeare’s 12th Night in college, I watched the first rehearsal and thought to myself, “Hey, this is just like that Disney Channel movie, Motocrossed.”  And then of course, there is the best one of them all, Brink. Remember that one?  Erik von Detten from The Princess Diaries and the voice of Sid from Toy Story was an in-line skater and joined the corporate skating team to help his disabled father pay the bills because his mother can’t sell a house but really deep down he just wanted to be on the cover of a magazine.  Shakespeare himself couldn’t write such a grappling plot.

By the time I actually stopped watching the Disney Channel on a consistent basis, I was upset to find out that the one movie that I always wished they would make, (a movie about Theatre,) finally aired.  Not only did they make the movie, it spawned two sequels, one of which was a feature film in theatres, and became so wildly popular that we even got to see entertainment and merchandise for it pop up at Disney Parks.  To this day, I have yet to see any of the High School Musical films and maybe one day I’ll sit down and watch them but I still wish that the first one would have come out a few years earlier.

What fascinates me about all of these movies is that, like Doug, they celebrated the normal life.  They focused on kids in normal settings and made their lives look more interesting than our own.  Even when kids were actually in what seemed to be glamorous lifestyles, like the more recent Hannah Montana series, the character strived to have the normalcy that most of us kids watching at home actually had.  As an adult, I am amazed at how many people my age know these movies so well meaning most of them were at home those nights too.  It turns out… I wasn’t alone.

I look back on all of these films and the stories that I grew up with and I’m amazed at how they helped shape me into the person I am today.   I think of this often when I am directing.  Like most directors, I tend to lean towards the “slice of life” plays that take realism to a level where audiences can identify with the characters and apply the stories to their own lives.  I hope to continue to do so as I will soon start tackling a play, which undoubtedly will be the most challenging project, I have ever taken on.  Hopefully I’ll take a little bit of Zenon’s courage and Brink’s dedication wherever I go.  I hope you all will do the same.

See you all out on STAGE,