Friday, July 10, 2009

On Fire with the Friar

Last year, in our "Romeo and Juliet," a bright and shining fourth grader played the most difficult role of Friar Laurence. The part is a challenge because the character simply does not stop talking. He concocts plans on top of plans to save and protect the young lovers.

Lyndon, the boy playing the Friar, bravely tackled this zealous chatterbox and learned page-long speeches. Any actor would tremble at the responsibility and Lyndon was no different. His fear showed itself in the speed of his delivery.

"Lyndon, you're almost off-book and that's spectacular, but you must slooooow down."

Lyndon smiled, nodded and launched back in — faster.

"Whoa, Lyndon. Poor Juliet can't keep up with your instructions. At this rate, she might give the sleeping potion to the cat."

Lyndon shrugged, bobbed his head in complete agreement, and went — faster.

"Okay, so Romeo didn't catch the city. What if he goes to Padua instead of Mantua just because he couldn't keep up with you?"

On the day that Lyndon made his way through a particularly grueling speech and we all managed to understand it, the kids in the club gave him a spontaneous ovation and he never looked back. Lyndon was great.

Inexplicably, after his triumphant performance, Lyndon told me he might not audition for The Shakespeare Club the next year.

By the time the audition period rolled around, he was still ambivalent. But I didn't push for an answer.

Lyndon lives alone with his mom. No siblings and dad is occasional. He's academically advanced. He's a good, good kid. He stayed after every Shakespeare Club meeting to help me clean up.

What happened? Did someone make fun of him being in the club or on stage? I simply didn't know and didn't want to prod. I came up with another idea.

"Hey Lyndon, what do you think about being the club's stage manager? We've never had one before and I know you'd be wonderful. You'd be my right hand. You'd be in charge of the props, the blocking and when we do the show you'd direct a crew running lights and sound."

Lyndon liked the plan and signed on as the club's first stage manager. It would take a full year for me to learn the truth of his shying away as an actor.

In the meantime, during the audition process, Lyndon lined the littlest ones up on a bench outside the library to wait their turn to meet with me. He then carefully guided them back to class after their nervous experience. He was both commanding and gentle. He paid attention to my signals and wore authority well.

I had no clue that inside Lyndon a small seed called regret was starting to sprout.

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