Saturday, July 11, 2009

Henry



November, 2008

He's eight. He looks like Opie in "The Andy Griffith Show." And he's an actor.

No doubt about it: The boy needs to act like the rest of us need to breathe.

"Okay, Henry, are you ready? Want to give it a go?"

Henry and I are in the school library, sitting at a round table. The librarian tries to make busy at her desk across the way, but I can tell she's slightly mesmerized by Henry.

It's because he can't stop bouncing. He's in the chair; he's out of the chair. He's in and he's out.

"Yes, Ms. Ryane, I'm really ready."

"Okay, Henry, let me just give you a little background. This speech is given by a boy fairy in the play 'A Midsummer Night's Dream.' The fairies take care of their queen, Titania. She is about to go to sleep in the forest and you're going to make sure that all the spiders and beetles stay away from her. That's what 'hence' means...get the heck away."

Henry takes all of this in with the look of a very intense actor.

"Okay, you see this rack of books, Henry?"

He nods.

"I want you to imagine that all the creepy crawlers are in this. Pretend it's a tree and you're going to give them what-for. Okay?"

"Okay, Ms. Ryane."

And off he goes. Shouting at the ripped-up paperback copies of R.L. Stine's Goosebumps like King Lear on a bender. The librarian leaps out of her seat.

"Holy mackerel, Henry, you really worked on this, didn't you?"

"Yes, I did. Me and my mom, and I also did it with my little brother. He's four."

"Here's something I think is really neat about acting, Henry. In real life, we can't just walk around and scream at people. We can't push people around and be bossy and stuff, right?"

Henry nods.

"But in acting it's your job to do that. We can put folks in their place and have a fit and behave very badly sometimes...because that's what the character would do."

Henry leaks a mischievous smile.

"Do you like to make people laugh, Henry?"

Dead serious.

"Yes, Ms. Ryane. I love it."

"Henry, whose idea was it for you to try out for The Shakespeare Club? Was it yours or did your Mom or someone else say, 'Hey, Henry, you should do this'?"

"Mine. I wanted to do this. I saw the kids do 'Romeo and Juliet' and I said I want to do that and I told my mom and she said okay."

"Henry, can you do your fairy speech for me again because I have to tell you, honestly, that’s about the most fun I've had in a year."

Henry gritted his teeth and focused:

    [pointing his finger] Weaving spiders, come not here;
    [yelling] Hence, you long-legg'd spinners, hence!
    [giving a dark look with furrowed brow] Beetles black, approach not near;
    [big finish on a high note] Worm nor snail, do no offense!

Here comes Malvolio. This is the boy. This is his year. This is the beginning.

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