Aileen Quijano

IT all started over a lukewarm cup of coffee. One August night, my friends Al, Em and I lamented over life’s quotidian not-so-merry-go-round. Don’t you ever get tired of it all- work, mall, eat, coffee, sleep, then back again? Surely, there’s got to be more to life than these.

And then over sips of coffee, we grumbled some more about how life’s little perks like plays and movies have become ridiculously expensive with little value. We discussed one particular production I had the misfortune to watch. Boy, if only, we could have treated it differently.

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The coffee by then must have gone to our heads for a germ of an idea started hopping around – if we don’t like something, why not change it ourselves? Or better yet, why not create and produce something to satisfy us and jolt us out of this bout of whining? We lacked professional experience, true, but everyone has got to start somewhere. What have we got to lose? Well, probably just our reputation, time, money, sanity and what-else. Who cares?

So we began to dream. To make it work, we needed a material close to our hearts. Al beat us to an answer: The Little Prince.

The journey began. Producing a play wasn’t as easy as we planned. We visited about five institutions before we found one we could link up with and share our vision. We auditioned about 50 kids to get a cast of 20. We made seven script revisions before we settled on the final one. We listened to about 20 CDs and 150 songs to pick out just 10 for the soundtrack. We had about 50 rehearsals to prepare for just 3 shows. We sent about 40 sponsorship letters and they were rejected for one reason or another, except for two – but sorry, they could only give in kind, not cash – which was what we really needed. Oh well, that was better than nothing. And what did we do to fill up 300 seats? Target to sell a thousand tickets.

It was a crazy life. As the play progressed along, Al developed an aversion to phones and companies, M lost our bag of newly printed tickets, and I – one fateful night – totally lost my cool and screamed at the kids. It was hell.

By October, we were at breaking point. We stopped talking like normal friends. To add insult to injury, people were already patronizing us, “Don’t worry, it’s normal for a first production to fold, anyway. Move on and just charge it to experience.” Grrrr. That grated on our nerves like the sound of a fingernail against glass that just won’t stop. Should we just end it all? That would be heaven.

But how could we when we’ve barely even started? If we don’t at least finish this, how else will we be able to launch another project in our lives? We were still stubborn enough to believe that the dream could still happen. So we picked up the bat once more and decided to give the ball our best shot – win or lose.

Eventually, we got used to being insane. We learned to love the kids, tolerate their mind boggling moves for affection, and deal with their tantrums and petty fights. We realized that in all this, they were the point, not us.

To counter the stress, we decided to make every rehearsal fun and every meeting a food binge. We learned to just stick out our tongues at people who refused to help instead of scream or pull each others’ glorious hair. What we lacked in professional experience, we countered with passion and love for the arts.

And then, when we couldn’t afford it, we decided to challenge the fates, and rented a grand stage for the production instead of settling for a little amphitheater. When you decide to do something, might as well do it right and big and grand all the way, right? Otherwise, what’s the point?

By December, we got our happy ending. Performance day was a blast. Oh, the shows were far from perfect. Lines were missed, the sound equipment acted up, backstage witnessed one glitch after another. But have you ever had that moment when everybody simply decides to throw caution to the winds and do their best, come what may, because after all, there’s no more tomorrow?

And God, the joy in the children’s faces, that moment when you see them come out of their shell to share that talent you help shape, the awe in their faces after having their few minutes in the spotlight and realizing that dreams do come true. It makes every tear, each struggle, every sleepless night -- all worthwhile. That night we made no profit but still we broke even. And then there were the invisible gifts beyond prize like friendship, love, passion, faith and self-respect.

The Little Prince happened to us almost seven years ago. But each time the New Year rolls around, I remember how we fought and made this dream happen.

I think each of us needs at least one “Little Prince” experience in our lives. It could be a game won, a board exam passed, a business established, or even a love well-fought for.

I think each and everyone should have that something to look back to and say, “Yeah, one time I risked it all and beat all the odds. It was crazy. It was hard, sure, but I survived. If I believe, I could do it again.”

Dreams, after all, do come true.