Wednesday, August 12, 2009


February, 2009

"Ma, may, mee, my, mo, moo —"

"Ma, may, mee, my, mo, moo —"

"Baa, bay, bee, bye, bo, boo —"

"Baa, bay, bee, bye, bo, boo —"

"Ms. Ryane...Ms. Ryane...."

Nathan bops around like a kid who has to pee. He waves his arms to get my attention (as if that's a difficult thing) and I raise my finger to my lips to indicate: Wait.

"Ga, gay, gee, gye, go, goo —"

"Ga, gay, gee, gye, go, goo —"

"But, Ms. Ryane...I just want to it today? Is it today you tell us?"

Finger to lips.

"Rubber baby buggy bumpers."

"Rubber baby buggy bumpers."

"Is it today?" The calls echo over the schoolyard.

Today and today and today....

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow....
Macbeth Act V, Scene V

And our vocal warm-up is trashed because it is today...casting will be announced and nothing worthwhile will happen in The Shakespeare Club until the task is done.

"Okay, we've read the play and you all have a pretty good understanding of the story of 'Twelfth Night' and the characters. There are more girls' parts than usual, but still not a lot. Remember why?"

"William Shakespeare didn't like girls."

"No, Luis, and after spending three years in the club, you should know that's not the reason."

"Anyone else?"

"Because boys had to be the girls?" asks Belinda.

"Exactly. Boys played the girls' parts because it was against the law for girls to be actors in those days. So, Shakespeare didn't write a lot of girl characters and that means in our club, girls will get to play boy characters."


Happens every year. Oh well.

"Now 'Twelfth Night' doesn't have a lot parts period, so not everyone gets a big part. But everyone is necessary for us to do a great production."

Russell makes little fists and chants in a low voice:

"Malvolio, Malvolio, Malvolio...."

"If you wish to have a private discussion with me after today's meeting about your part, I will stick around and be available. So here goes...."

I announce the casting and get an equal amount of delighted squeals and disgusted groans.

It was this way in Shakespeare's Globe Theatre over 400 years ago, and it is this way in Room 39 in 2009.

It will be ever thus.

[Dramatis Personae
    Calvin, sailor/guard
    Theresa, Sea Captain
    Beth, ocean maker/musician
    Henry, Malvolio
    Celia, ocean maker
    Alice, Olivia
    Lizzie, sailor/Valentine
    Ethan, Sebastian
    Polly, Viola
    Luis, Sir Andrew Aguecheek
    Susan, ocean maker
    Meara, ocean maker/Curio
    Darby, musician/ocean maker/Feste
    Nathan, Orsino
    Faith, guard
    Belinda, Narrator
    Iris, sailor
    Geneva, Maria
    Kate, ocean maker/Antonia
    Geoffrey, Sir Toby Belch

    Lyndon, stage manager
    Anthony, lights
    Pablo, sound

    Scene: A city in Illyria, and the sea-coast near it]

After our two hours together, the kids scatter out of the room and into the schoolyard. As Rachel I reorganize the room, I notice Celia standing alone at the door.

"Ms. Ryane?"

"Yes, Celia," and I kneel beside her.


"Did you want to talk about the casting, Celia?'


"Tell me."

"I don't really want to be 'ocean maker.' I want...I would like...."

Celia looks around the room, up and down, here and there....It's hard for her to meet my eyes, but what a brave little girl to even have this chat. No one else came forward.

"I know, Celia. I know you're disappointed. 'Ocean maker' is not a speaking part and not a great part, but you and I need to find your acting voice before that can happen."

She looks to the floor and I can sense her holding back tears.

"Celia, you have another big job and that's your understudy part. You have to be ready to do be the Narrator in case Belinda gets sick or misses a rehearsal....You and I will work on that together and maybe find that voice I know you have in there."

"But, Ms. Ryane, at home you wouldn't believe it....I am really, really funny and I have a really, really loud voice."

"I believe it, Celia. And we're going to get that voice here."

She sighs.

"I don't think Belinda will ever miss a meeting."

"You just never know, Celia. We have to be ready because you just never know."

I would like to play sir toby because he is funny like me he is cool like me and likes to party. Because he wrote the joke to Malvolio.
—Luis, 5th grade


  1. I'll never forget the pain of not getting cast in TEAHOUSE OF THE AUGUST MOON in high school. I ended up as a nameless geisha. Didn't they know I was a SERIOUS ACTRESS??? The next year I was a big hit as a tipsy old Sybil Seward in the Ted Tiller version of DRACULA. Ah, the ups and downs of life on the stage.

  2. Mine was losing Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz"...obvious casting, I thought...I had the hair for crying out I didn't have the notes...big deal.

  3. I was a dancing cookie in Gods-knows-what and a flying monkey in "The Wizard of Oz." Some things never change.

  4. Funny, that's how I see you now, you little chocolate chip.


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