Monday, August 10, 2009

Luis: Laughing All the Way

February, 2009

In third grade, Luis played Marcellus in "Hamlet" and asked me over and over:

"Mith Ryane, ith Marthelluth a boy?"

"Yes, Luis, Marcellus is definitely a boy. He's a guard in Hamlet's castle."

"Are you thure?"

Luis has a tiny lisp. Spanish is the language used in Luis' home and he likes to beat his chest and announce:

"I'm Mexican!"

I find this refreshing in these troubled days of hostile immigration rhetoric.

It's easy to see how Luis might have thought Marcellus was a girl because Marcella is a popular name in Mexican culture.

In his second year in the club, Luis played Benvolio, the peacekeeping friend of Romeo. After that production, Luis tracked me down on the campus.

"Mith Ryane, what play are we doing nexth year?"

"Well, I'm thinking maybe 'Twelfth Night'?"

"Ith it a comedy?"

"Yes, it is a comedy."

"Oh good...cauth I think I'm better at comedieth."

And he is...oh, is he ever. He's born with the timing of a Catskills comic, this boy. But we have to have a meeting in my office, a bench outside Room 39.

"Luis, you have a gift."

His eyes narrow into a slightly skeptical look.

"Do you know what I mean by that?"

He shakes his head.

"I mean you have a special talent. Something you were born with. Can you guess what it is?"


"Yup. Comedy. You can make people laugh and that's fantastic. But here's the thing...I'm going to need you to do that onstage, not off."

He gives another puzzled look.

"Luis, right now in the Shakespeare Club meetings, you cannot stop yourself from making smart cracks all the time....I mean, you have Susan and Meara practically wetting their pants every time you open your mouth."

"Yeah," he agrees, and gives a little laugh. He's proud of his dazzling ways.

"But it's disturbing and gets in the way when I'm trying to teach or direct the other kids. Know what I mean?"

"Yeah." He's a bit sorry.

"Luis, I'm going to make you a promise: Concentrate, use discipline, pay attention and a spectacular thing will happen."

"Yeah?" He's interested.

"When we do 'Twelfth Night,' I promise you the laughs are going to roll across the auditorium in waves and wash over you like a giant ocean. You're going to have the best time of your life, Luis. But you have to stick with me. Don't get those dreaded xs. Don't lose your place in the club. You're going to rock, Luis. I promise. Believe me?"


We slap high fives to seal the deal.

Luis' third-grade teacher wrote him off. She got frustrated with him and didn't think he worked hard enough.

Luis has trouble reading and writing. He can make a joke — but cannot not spell the word. The j and y sounds mix him up.

Check this out: The boy can read and act Shakespeare like a pro.

Introducing: Sir Andrew Aguecheek, a.k.a. Luis, a.k.a. a Shakespearean goofball.

Today we finished reading the play. Ms. Ryane said they are getting parts next week. I felt like I wanted to be in the play, But that is ALL over. I hope I get over it! I feel like everything has changed. First, I wanted to do this, but now I want to do something else. But I made a promised to Ms. Ryane, so OHH WELL!!!
Lyndon, 5th grade

Note to self: Pay attention to Lyndon.


  1. Mel: With just a few strokes of the keys, you have described 'Luis" to perfection. I'm enjoying your behind-the-scenes conversations with the kids I thought I knew.

  2. I have the benefit of seeing them in a different lights can bring out inner stuff.

  3. Mel.. I have just arrived at this party with you and your very fortunate students and wish I had dropped in much earlier.. I have, for example, already lost my heart to Luis. He is as wonderful, I suspect, in his self as he is in your good writing. Shame on his teachers for writing him off and missing out on such a prize of a boy. Thank you so much for sharing him with me... Alice

  4. Alice,

    Thank you for reading. You're right, Luis is remarkable and only one of the heart breakers you'll meet like I did.

    The blog isn't very old...a few can catch up with a click to "older posts."


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