Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Proposition



November, 2008

With a handful of Shakespeare Club brochures, I visit each third-, fourth- and fifth-grade classroom to give my pitch.

"So, hey...The Shakespeare Club. My name is Ms. Ryane and I'm here to tell you about the club. Some of you may have seen 'Romeo and Juliet' last year —"

A boy-type arm shoots up.

"Um, excuse me...excuse me...um, Ms....um...."

"Ryane. Ms. Ryane, yes?"

"Um, excuse me...were those real swords?"

In Year One of The Shakespeare Club, I practically had to lasso kids to join. I ended up with exactly ten, and only one boy.

Oh, how times have changed. The school kids have seen "Hamlet" and "Romeo and Juliet." Now I have boys interested because they saw crummy little gold plastic swords that might be real.

"Well no, the swords are stage weapons and not real, but let me tell you the acting was real and the stage fighting had to be carefully rehearsed."


"Geoffrey's sword broke. I saw it."

"Yes, that's true, Geoffrey's sword did break" — because it's a crummy little plastic toy! — "but did you notice how quickly he fixed it and continued on playing Romeo? That was pretty cool, I thought."

He gives an eight-year-old's doubtful nod and rests his chin on his hand.

"Okay, auditions are next week if you're interested and available. Talk about this with the adults at home" — I'm careful not to say parents because many kids live with aunts or grannies — "and then work on your audition. I'm looking for children who really want to work hard and make a commitment. The Shakespeare Club is super-fun but sometimes super-boring too. Not everyone gets a big part and everyone has to wait their turn to be on stage."

Another boy-type arm shoots up.

"Is it true that you get candy and have parties in The Shakespeare Club?"

Because I want lots of kids to audition, I'm tempted to say, Yes, yes! Lots of candy, pizza and parties! It's pretty much one constant blow-out.

Instead: "We have a party to celebrate William Shakespeare's birthday in April and we have a wrap party at the end of the year. Not so much candy because sugar isn't good for actors. It makes them too crazy and then too sleepy to act."

Inside my brochures are two four-line fairy speeches from "A Midsummer Night's Dream," one for boys and another for girls. I give them to the teacher and head for the door.

Screams bounce off the walls of the classroom.

"I'm going to audition!"

"Yeah, me too!"

"I wanna do Shakespeare Club!"

"Yeah, me too!"

I can only take twenty kids. At our school, space is at a premium, and the fourth-grade classroom cannot fit more than twenty kids. Nor are there enough parts in "Twelfth Night," and I can only handle twenty kids.

What hath I wrought?

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