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Mohamed A. El-Erian Headshot

Community Theatre Can Teach Politicians a Thing or Two

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Our 10-year-old daughter just completed her fourth appearance in an annual community theater production of "LagunaTOTS." With that, we now put behind us weeks of rehearsals, parent volunteering, and shaky nerves before each and every of the eight performances over two weekends.

Yet, rather than a sense of relief, my wife and I are sad. And it is not just because we said thank you and good bye to incredibly-talented theatrical leaders, 36 amazing kids (who worked so hard to deliver one great show after the other) and their supporting parents.

We will also miss the inspiration and insights repeatedly provided by the kids. Moreover, many of the takeaways speak directly to something that we need to understand better, both as parents and in our professional capacities -- that is, why the United States (and many other countries) are finding it so hard to create enough jobs and overcome other damage from the global financial crisis and the Great Recession that followed.

First, a few words about this terrific show.

It is modeled after the long-running (20 years) adult version called Lagunatics. Equipped with hilarious scripts from amazing writers, and through expert (and patient!) directing and production, the kids spend each show making fun of their parents, schools, our town and the vagaries of life (from the trauma of lice and heavy backpacks, to the captivity of Instagram, candy and junk food craving, kids pajama parties and the absurdities of some of the fund raisers that schools (and PTAs) hold).

It is a hilarious 2-hour show, full of singing and dancing. And the words have a sneaky way of staying with you for a long time.

Yet some of the other takeaways will prove much more durable and consequential.

I, for one, will never forget how wonderful content (words and music), inclusive directing, and organized staging brilliantly brought together the creative energy and diversity of 36 7-12 year olds.

I will never forget the determination of one of the cast members to continue performing even though she had injured (badly) her knee and had to appear on stage with crutches.

I will never forget how cast and crew members came together to cheer and support a performer who suddenly froze on stage and may well have been on the verge of abandoning the production all together.

I will never forget one the youngest cast members who showed huge timidity at the start of rehearsals only to gain the type of self-confidence that allowed her not just to perform but to command the stage.

I will never forget how parents who, having volunteered for one chore, showed no hesitation to adapt and deal with the inevitable behind-the-scene hiccups (and dramas) of any production.

Most of all, I will never forget how the show's leadership, content and vision empowered and motivated kids to achieve at levels that surprised even their parents and siblings.

In all this, I cannot but help think of the parallels with what we should be seeing on the national stage, and the reality of what is missing.

As too many Americans continue to face difficulties finding jobs and generating enough income to support and enable their families, Congress would be well advised to consider the small achievements of LagunaTOTS and those of many similar shows that occur around the country every year.

The solutions to many of the nation's problems boil down to empowerment, leadership, organization, commitment, follow-up and determination -- a critical combination that seems to continuously evade our elected representatives on Capitol Hill these days.

Congress, you have the material and the ability to excel. What you need is the kind of perseverance and team work that comes with putting the greater good ahead of narrow political self-interest. By doing so you would get the type of standing ovation that artists and politicians can only fantasies about in their wildest dreams.