Backstage, a ‘School of Rock’ Staffer Faces Graduation | Modern Society of USA

Backstage, a ‘School of Rock’ Staffer Faces Graduation

Backstage, a ‘School of Rock’ Staffer Faces Graduation

Jill Valentine is pretty sure the kids have a nickname for her: Fun Killer. For nearly four years, Ms. Valentine has been the head guardian of “School of Rock,” which played its last performance on Sunday at the Winter Garden Theater. Guardians care for child actors during rehearsals and before and after performances, making sure they’re fed, watered and rested. Ms. Valentine distributes children’s pain relievers, she runs science flashcards, she confiscates contraband.

She doesn’t have children of her own — “I have two cats and a boyfriend, that’s enough!” she said — but 63 have come into and out of her care since she joined “School of Rock” for pre-Broadway rehearsals in 2015. Thirteen children, age about 8 to 13, star in every performance, with four more waiting backstage. Thirty-six alumni joined them for Sunday’s show-closing jam session.

Before the Saturday evening performance, Ms. Valentine met me at the show’s rehearsal space, now mostly denuded and bubble wrapped. She talked about the responsibilities of the job, the hectic schedule and why there are no children showmances. Her feelings about the show’s ending were bittersweet, but not so bittersweet that she hadn’t booked a 5 a.m. Miami-bound flight for Monday. Here are edited excerpts from the conversation.

What exactly is a guardian?

It’s the responsible person for the child actor. We are responsible for their safety, health, well-being from the time that they walk into the stage door until the time they walk out.

I will be in two hours before the curtain goes up. Then we pick up the kids about an hour and 15 minutes before curtain. There are 17 of them. It’s a lot. They’ll go upstairs, drop their stuff, do a physical and vocal warm-up in our green room and then we are off to the races — hair calls, costumes, mic check, all that stuff.

What emergencies have you handled?

We’ve certainly had bloody noses, we’ve stood offstage with trash cans. We say, if you think you’re going to be sick, please walk off the stage, we will be there with a trash can for you. I have to ask the kids, do you need to stop? Can you finish the show? It has to be the actors’ choice.

Do you handle a lot of stage fright?

There’s usually a little bit of nervousness for the first or even the second show. We try really hard to encourage parents to maybe hold off on inviting everyone you’ve ever met to see your child perform for like a week.

What’s the hardest part of the job?

I think the hardest thing is to be consistent. It doesn’t matter how tired I am. Or if it’s Sunday night of a five-show weekend and all I want to do is go home. Because when the stuff hits the fan [Ms. Valentine used a more colorful term], I need those kids to turn to me and to trust me.

Is it sad to leave the show?

A little. It’s my sixth Broadway show. I know what this is. I’m O.K. But in packing up the office, I’m going through paperwork and old schedules, drawings the kids have made. Which is like, Oh, right. Remember that? We’ve done so much! If anything, my overwhelming feeling is not sorrow, but pride.

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