We've rounded the autumn bend and all roads now lead to Christmas and the beginning of 2018. The pace is picking up, people are scrambling with decorations, gifts, cards, and travel plans, and my grandkids are asking, "Pop-Pop, when is this year's Talent Show?"
The idea for this yearly event began many years earlier when our eight children were small. We were close friends with other large, young families in our church (Catholic of course). Several times we met in our homes and each family would entertain the others with some rehearsed skit like "The Hot Licks Band" where members in straw hats sang Mountain Dew while playing kazoos, spoons, and a washtub bass, or the "Pig Fish" who gathered on stage, took huge gulps of water, and just belched for two straight minutes.
Well, one night in 2000 while Ellie and I were looking at photos of those "good ol' days" an idea hit me, "Bill, you need another Hudson Family Talent Show to relive some of those memorable times together." A great idea, but getting everyone together for one night was becoming problematic. Kim and Brian were newly-weds living nearby; Val and Joe were in local colleges and busy working. Luke was in Cincinnati playing baseball for the Reds and Will was off playing ball and attending Oregon State University. Liz (17) and Sarah (15) were still in high school and living at home. The only sure time of year to have all the kids together was the week between Christmas and New Years. And so that became our objective.
When we informed the kids, there was both interest and hesitation, but they all grew comfortable knowing they would have the support of their spouses and any friends they wanted to invite. It was quickly settled; the show was going to start at 6 p.m. on Friday, December 29, 2000.
The rules were simple: (1) To attend the event, you must perform in at least one act. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, in-laws, and friends would be invited but they too must participate. (2) The names of each act and the players would be submitted by Thanksgiving so that I could publish a Program Schedule which named the skit and the actors making it publically embarrassing for anyone to back out.
As Christmas approached, the kids met to develop their skits and realized it takes a lot of work ... yet, there was no escape. When the program was published I began to hear from several sources, "Dad, you're crazy." I was getting no respect and I too began to doubt the value of the impending show. Was all this anxiety helping or hurting the family? But I remembered this quote from Rodney Dangerfield which gave me assurance the show was going to be fun.
My psychiatrist told me I was crazy and I said I want a second opinion. He said okay, you're ugly too."
The first year's show was family magic ... an extraordinary success! Everyone arrived on time, looking nervous while bringing in props. Every room of our house bustled with small groups doing last minute rehearsals and tweaks to their skits. The theater was our living room and all the furniture had been moved out making room for rows of folding chairs. The entry way became our stage above which we hung sheets for curtains. We added some lighting, had a single microphone, and were ready to record the event. The first act was delayed an hour for last minute details, but once it began there was love and respect pouring from the audience onto each performer.
In that 3-hour slice of life we realized that not one single Hudson had any talent in performing arts, but everyone had the ability to make people laugh. Every one of us got nervous simply performing in front of our own family. Imagine the fright a real artist must experience in front of a large paying audience. Everyone laughed, and laughed even harder as they watched themselves in multiple reruns on TV immediately after the show's end. It was a hit that has become an anticipated yearly event. It added purpose, organization, and fun to our family get-togethers. It also added family comradery as groups had to meet several times for preparation and rehearsals.
Now, 17 years later, the event has grown in numbers forcing us to rent a local club house for the show. We now have 18 participating grandchildren, some with real talent, who provide the motivation for the show. My kids still complain at Talent Show time knowing the amount of work required particularly at the busiest time of year, but when they look into the eyes of their own children asking for another performance they relent. And if you want to peer into the heart and mind of a child, put them on a stage performing their own routine with music and lights in front of an appreciative audience.
As the grandkids have grown, they've added their creative imagination to the show. The teenagers have begun "red carpet" interviews of the guests as they arrive for the show. Those recordings are as humorous as the actual event.
My neighbors have remarked at the unusual sightings outside our front door at show time. One year seven men were dressed with wigs, lip stick, high heels, and stockings while holding purses and waiting outside for their cue to walk through the front door, enter the stage, and reenact their wives going out "shopping" for the evening. One neighbor nearly called the cops which would have required an interesting explanation from my 6'5'' CHP son-in-law Mike who was in a tight red dress and heels.
There is tremendous artistic value in this small scale event which I'd recommend for any group of family and friends. The younger the participants, the greater the value in many forms: