I had been in typical-parent mode for many years, chauffeuring the kids to stuff but not really being involved beyond that.

That all changed when the kids discovered the challenges of theatre. Like most activities, theatre requires a physical and mental effort and practice is essential. But unlike a lot of other activities, every single performance in theatre is a victory. A continuing mastery of a craft that can never fully be mastered. Joey and Katie have been captured in its spotlight since Jr. High, and followed the calling into high school.

In this journey, Joey has also discovered The Center For Living Arts in Rock Island, an unassuming but demanding educational theatre program, run by Dino and Tina Hayz. The classes there require each student to create the show, from concept to performance. Every part of "Show Business' is covered. I am confident that in addition to enhancing his understanding of the art form, The 'Center' experience has also developed other qualities Joey will carry to whatever path he chooses.

The students at the center are told the expectations from the start, then are given the instruction and tools to succeed. But what makes this place different that any other activity I've seen (or coached etc.) is the sense that they are truly all in it together. Each person's success is celebrated because each person is working at their highest ability. The spirit of cooperation is pure, and it comes directly from, well, the director, Dino Hayz.

I didn't know what to expect when a family friend suggested The Center, and when I sat down to see Joey in his first performance, I realized instantly that this place was different. Nowhere had I ever seen so many kids just laying it out there, unafraid, enthusiastic, and powerful. A show at the Center is the ultimate team sport, since they are only as good as it's weakest performance. Which is why they work so hard, together, to be great. They help each other. And what the kids might not understand, and what Dino and Tina understand and teach so well, is that just by caring for one another, and gently encouraging one another to be better than they even thought possible, they all achieve greatness.

It's a lesson I've preached through all my years of coaching, with limited results. Well, the recipe they cook up at the Center for Living Arts is a satisfying meal.

Today is the last day of 'West Side Story' and I can't thank the staff at the Center enough for what they've taught Joey, and most importantly, how they've somehow managed to make him WANT to learn. I've watched a number of students blossom there, and it's just as gratifying to witness another's son or daughter emerge into the spotlight.

Nope, can't thank them enough. I can, however, put their website here with the note to any other parent who might be in the same boat I was: If you have a performer amongst your family, don't hide it. There are always new classes, and new shows, for every age. Let Dino and Tina help them unfurl that freak flag. Then sit back and watch the show. And bring a few tissues.