, Newburyport, MA

November 6, 2013

Parent Pill: A monster production

Parent Pill
Sue Tabb

---- — My husband just got home from scouring all the art supply stores in the Northeast looking for brown ink to dye a wig. I’ve spent the last 45 minutes watching YouTube videos on the fine art of coloring synthetic hair.

You may have guessed by now that we are either a very strange family or have a daughter who is involved in theater. Thankfully, it’s the latter ... although there may be some evidence to support both theories.

I’ve written about our family’s involvement in theater in previous columns and my daughter’s affinity for anything to do with acting or staging a performance. She has been involved in dozens of shows and at the ripe old age of 14 has recently been cast in Newburyport High School’s upcoming production of “Frankenstein.”

So, it’s all good, and she is excited to be a part of this cast and crew. Everything has gone according to plan — she is playing an 8-year-old boy, and she has her lines down and her costume is perfect, very convincing, in fact.

The problem is that she has very long, very thick, very curly hair. Do you see where I’m going now? Yup. Cue the wig.

For most mothers, dyeing a wig would be no big deal. If you know me, you know that I am not most mothers. In fact, I can’t cook, sew a button or attach a simple strip of sequins to a dance costume.

Thank God for my girlfriend, Jen, whose daughter is on the same dance team as my oldest daughter. She is like her fairy godmother. When it’s recital time, she just hands her the leotard, and it appears a few days later looking absolutely perfect.

The dance teacher now gives our costumes directly to Jen because I’m not to be trusted. Not with a glue gun or a needle or even double-sided fabric tape.

Back to “Frankenstein.” Now that we are just a day away from opening night, I have been trying to help a bit with painting the set. A friend of mine, and fellow theater mom, is in charge of this critical area. She is an awesome set designer and has helped create some incredible and elaborate sets for local productions over the past several years.

She can use a circular saw, power drill and fancy paintbrushes that create a textured finish. She can create moving doors and raised platforms in her sleep. I mean, she knows where to put screws.

I, on the other hand, just show up and pray for a task that doesn’t involve anything more than broad brush strokes on a concealed wall. And even then, there’s no guarantee.

You can imagine my panic when the wig came home. It’s a short, blond number that we are supposed to attempt to dye brown to match my daughter’s hair.

The directors of the show must know my track record since they assured my daughter that if I ruined it, they had another wig she could wear. I don’t want to ruin it.

I am afraid of directors. They can get teenagers to do stuff! They are extremely talented and driven multitaskers, who know how to get a job done within the parameters they define. We don’t have presidents who can do that.

Theater has always amazed me because everyone involved in a production — from the actors to the set designers to the tech crew — is 100 percent invested. These are people who completely give of themselves for the greater good.

To me, there is no better example of how critical teamwork is in producing a successful outcome.

These kids and adults need to be applauded for their hard work and dedication to their craft. They spend countless hours at rehearsals, often leading to texts begging for pizza and snacks.

Food, especially during tech week, becomes like the nectar of the gods. Recently, I walked into the green room with a couple of buckets of Munchkins, and it was like a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” I almost didn’t make it out alive.

So here I am still dealing with the wig dilemma. I cannot fail at this. I won’t fail at this. I will produce a light brown wig, darn it. And if I do, I hope you will all come to see my modest contribution to a most incredible production.

Supporting the local arts is so important. Join us ... won’t you?

“Frankenstein” will be performed in the Newburyport High School auditorium tomorrow and Friday and Nov. 14-16 at 7 p.m. Tickets are available at the door or by emailing


Sue Tabb is an account director with Thomson Communications and a freelance writer. She lives in Newburyport with her husband and two daughters. You can visit her blog at