Friday, August 21, 2009

Rachel: On the Inside, Outside

For the first time in my four years of The Shakespeare Club, I was able say something like this:

"Rachel, could you take these children outside and create an ocean?"

And, by God, she did it. Rachel took thirty yards of fabric, six girls, her own authority and came back half an hour later with the sea.

Our production would start in the dark as the sounds of an ocean and seagulls faded in. As blue and green lights lit up the stage, we'd hear the bubbly music of James Horner's score from" "Titanic" and see those waves with glittering fishes swimming upstage and children forming the shape of a ship.

Rachel, six girls, and gauzy fabric were a frothy frappé.

Rachel, two rambunctious boys, and one crabby girl...a fallen soufflé.

"Rachel, could you take Luis, Geoffrey and Geneva outside to work on the Toby, Andrew and Maria scene?"

They came back thirty minutes later. Rachel, tight-jawed and pale, signaled me with raised eyebrows that she may have been slammed by a briny swell this time.

After rehearsal:

"Rachel, how'd it go out there?"

"Not good. They were horrible. They wanted to play around, act out, goof off...anything but rehearse the scene. I said to them, 'That's want me to just give up on you? Walk away?' I was sooo mad."

I tracked the culprits down individually over the week.

"So, hey,'d it go working privately with Ms. Rachel the other day?"

His hands were shoved into his pockets.

"Ahh...well...not so great, I guess. We were kinda wild, I guess."

"Okay, look, you know she's a real actor. You three had an amazing opportunity to work with someone who knows her stuff and now you're telling me that you just wasted your time and her time?"

"Yeah...I guess we did, Ms. Ryane."

"Well, I guess next meeting you'll have a private moment with Ms. Rachel to apologize for that. Do you agree?"

"Yeah, Ms. Ryane, I agree."

And so it went with all three. They copped to it and apologized to Rachel because they're still of an age when an outright lie to me is a rare thing.

Rachel wanted to take another stab at a private rehearsal and I sent her outside with Alice and Polly: Olivia and Viola. All three came back glowing. Good work and well-used time.

I took a moment at next week's meeting.

"You know all twenty-one of you were chosen carefully to do 'Twelfth Night,' but there's still a waiting list of other kids who would love to take over in here."

"Who, Ms. Ryane?

"Who's on the list, Ms. Ryane?"

"Hey, Ms. Ryane, how many xs do I have? Do I have any?"

"The s and xs are private between each of you and me. And I'm not telling you who is on the list but I am telling you this: On May 28 I'm not going to be onstage doing this play. Ms. Rachel is not going to be onstage doing this play. You are. And you will have to be ready and you will have to count on each other because we won't be there to save you."

Henry, suddenly worried: "Well, where will you be, anyways?"

"I'm going to be out front taking notes. It'll be you up there, together, and in charge of the show. Not me."


And it was golden.

If I was a sailor on a ship I would eat raw fish and I would see whales dolphins and fish. If I ran out of food I would eat and cut up rats. I would kind of like it.
Nathan, 3rd grade


  1. Opening the play with the sea was a brilliant directorial choice and it was very well executed. Good idea to have - I forget her TeachingWill name - lead the rhythm. She was proud.

  2. Little Lizzie at the bow of the ship...I think that's who you mean.


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