Monday, September 14, 2009

Belinda: M.I.A.

March, 2009

It started with her script.

"Where's your script, Belinda?"

Shoulder shrug.

"You need it. You're the Narrator and plus you have to cue the actors when they call for a 'line'."

Shoulder shrug.

On the day the actors are handed their scripts they are given a stern warning:
"These are as precious as gold...or five dollars...or your favorite action figure. If you misplace or forget to bring your script, over and over, you'll earn an x. So be careful with your script. Take it home to work on your part, but remember your 'Twelfth Night' script sleeps in your backpack...that's its home."

Belinda had now earned an x. She had come to three meetings without her script. Every week I'd arrive at her classroom to check and her teacher would sadly shake her head: Nope, not today. Finally, after the third week of no script, I stood in the doorway of her classroom and a smile spread across Belinda's cheeks, accompanied by a vigorous nod.

"Phew...are you kidding me? You actually have it?"

"Yes, Ms.'s right here!"

"Where was it all this time?"

"I'm not sure...maybe under the bed."


The following week I saw Belinda on the campus playing at lunch break but when it came time for the club meeting: M.I.A.

"Where's Belinda?" I asked, looking over the schoolyard as the other members of the club lined up to start.

"She took the bus!" Darby called out.

"The bus? Why would she take the bus...she knows today's Shakespeare Club."

"I dunno but she took the bus," Darby confirmed and Beth joined in, nodding.

Let me dispel any notion that running The Shakespeare Club is non-stop hilarity and darling children working together toward a bravura performance. Other than the very first meeting and the day we have a party to celebrate Shakespeare's birthday, I never have a full quorum.

Now, Belinda was missing in action with no explanation.

We started our Sun Salutation and I spotted a wide-eyed child to my left: Belinda's understudy. I gave Celia a smile and a nod: Yup, baby, you're on.

Beth helped set up the music stand for Celia.

I held my breath.

I have a story from a long time ago;
I'll tell it to you now blow by blow.
It's a beautiful day as our story begins,
But look who comes here. Could they be twins?
Yes, indeed, they look the same.
She is Viola; Sebastian is his name.

Celia's voice rose strong and clear. She spoke at a level I'd never heard. I dared not even glance toward her; I didn't want to risk distracting an actor at work.

We managed to get through half of the play, which is not terrible for March. I had taught them to call out "Line!" when they needed help. Like professional actors they stumbled, hesitated, sighed and then shouted, "Line!"

At the end of rehearsal, as Lyndon, Rachel and I handed out apples and string cheese, I addressed the group.

"Some of you have earned very nice s and I want to tell you how that can happen for those of you struggling. As actors, we all have to face doing scary stuff. That's what makes actors different than regular people...they have to have courage to be truthful and speak up in front of an audience to share a story. Do you get that?"

They didn't answer because they were busy eating like starving people. I got a couple of munching nods.

"Today someone in The Shakespeare Club faced a fear and with great courage stepped up to the plate. Did anyone notice who that might have been?"

"Me?" shouted Luis, always the joker.

"No, Luis, not today, but I liked your dancing."

"I remembered my lines," offered Geneva.

"That was commendable but I'm talking about someone who did something they hadn't done before."

"Well, Ms. Ryane, I noticed something," piped up Henry, licking apple juice off his fingers. "I could hear Celia when she was doing Narrator."

"Bingo," and I looked over at Celia.

She modestly tried to chew back her grin.

"Celia showed us all how to be brave. She climbed a mountain today and now, Celia, there's no going back....You used your big voice, we all heard it and now no more little voice for you. Congratulations."

The group set aside their string cheese to give Celia a round of applause. She earned a big that day while I secretly wondered what was going on with Belinda.

She had some explaining to do in her big voice.

Dear Journal,

I wanted power when I was a small girl.
I would get hit by the wrong people.
They still have never apologize today.
I would have power to make them do so.
All I had to do is stand by then and they would.
They would say they were sorry for everything.

—Belinda, 4th grade


  1. ...when I was a little girl... wow.

  2. Such good stuff, Mel. I simply love the combo of photos and graphics and the mix of story, politics and kid's letters. Very satisfying entertainment!

  3. Thank you so much...and on your birthday you give me the gift...that's so cool.

  4. Belinda is still M.I.A., sadly.


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