J. Robert King


Children in the Dark

I just got back from Jungle Book, a youth theater production starring thirty local kids (including my sons) and assistant directed by my wife.

There are some great moments in the show, but the most transcendent moment of all is when the lights are out and all the kids come crawling and stalking and stomping on the stage and they make their jungle noises.

Hoots, reeps, whistles, whines, howls, yips, yammers, barks, growls.

In the darkness, that wild, free sound–that nobody-knows-it’s-me-and-so-I-can-do-anything sound–is marvelous. It makes me think of an orchestra tuning: resonant and improvisational, partly bashful and partly brash. It makes me think of a courtroom chattering before the jury returns.

It’s the sound of possibility.

But the jury does return to give its verdict. The conductor does take the podium to rap his baton. The lights do bathe the stage, and those children who in the darkness were whatever they imagined themselves to be are scared into silence.

Writers are those children in the dark. When writing a first draft, you have to hoot that way, growl and bark and crawl and scratch and find out what might be. Even when revising it, you must think like a wild creature, tearing out what offends you and dragging in something new.

But at some point, the lights have to go on, and you can’t be scared into silence. You have to look with the eyes of the audience and decide what parts work and what parts need to be better.

Once the book is out there, after all, the things you created in the darkness have to be amazing and alive and ready for the blinding light.

April 3rd, 2009
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One Response to “Children in the Dark”

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    …I just got back from Jungle Book, a youth theater production starring thirty local kids (including my sons) and assistant directed by my wife. There a……

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