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The ups and downs of bringing a baby backstage.

The "Sword" and My Son

My son is an actor. I can't quite say it with a straight face yet, but it's true. He has a small but pivotal role in the fine production of "The Sword in the Stone" currently playing at Theatre IV. He shares his only scene with Merlin and, so far, he has never played his part the same way twice. He was placid one night, anxious the next. For one show, he even slept through the whole scene. You see, my son is only 2 months old. He plays the infant King Arthur in the show, and he spends his three minutes of stage time being carried around in a velvet-lined baby bathtub. Nice work if you can get it. I don't know what Cooper thinks of his stage career so far. But from the moment Theatre IV called and asked if he would be available for the role ("hold on, let me check his date book..."), it's been an intriguing ride for his mother and me. We have both worked in theater so we were excited that one of our own was going to be on stage. But the performance schedule was daunting, with up to eight shows a week. We hadn't expected him to have so many demands on his time before he could drive, let alone before he could walk. Once we started telling folks about Cooper's role, I was surprised how many asked about his compensation. At first, I assumed these people were just amused at the thought of a 2-month old with money to spend ("gimme those satin diapers please, Mr. CVS Man!") But they seriously thought he should be getting a stipend of some kind. Well, the boy might need to get an agent because we sold his services just for the thrill of being back in show biz. When I took him backstage for the first time, it all came back to me. The actors wandering about in elaborate costumes and garish makeup, the buzz of anticipation and last-minute rushing around before curtain; it was all intoxicating. Of course, with a baby in tow, I was essentially invisible as the cast and crew gave the boy star treatment. Strapping him into his royal bathtub, I caught sight of Cooper's understudy: a rumpled doll stuffed carelessly into a corner of the prop table. "You and me, kid," I mumbled to the lifeless lump. "We both take a back seat to the drooling one." The curtain went up and I waited anxiously for the cue. The moment came: Uther Pendragon came off-stage, lifted Cooper from my arms and the breath caught in my throat. It was the first time I had handed my baby over to anyone who wasn't a close friend or family member. Suddenly, this wasn't just a show. It felt uncomfortably like life, and I was watching my son go off on his own for the first time. Uther handed him to Merlin, and the lights shone on Cooper's radiant face. He stared intently at the wizard as if he understood his every word. My heart swelled with pride. When he was handed back to me a couple minutes later and I resumed breathing, Cooper seemed unchanged by the experience. But feeling him securely tucked in my arms again, I felt like a different

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