Friday, September 4, 2009

Darby & Beth: Artistic Temperament

March, 2009

In the tradition of well-known artistic feuds, I have a twosome giving me grief and sending each other into crabapple hell.

Darby and Beth, both fourth-graders, dress alike, talk alike and fight like cats in a sack. They are downright, as the older kids say, "the B-word" with each other.

Because they both play the recorder, I've cast them as Duke Orsino's musicians. Their teacher, Sydney, took time to help the girls write their own composition for the second scene of the play..."If music be the food of on!"

I'm impressed until I try to rehearse with the pipsqueak divas.

"Okay, girls pick up your instruments....Let me hear it."

They raise the recorders to their mouths and I hold up the piece of paper with the written music. Before a single note is sounded, Beth flashes a look at Darby and lowers her instrument.

"Darby, no!"

Darby puts her hands on her hips and glares at Beth.


"Your fingers are in the wrong place...all wrong...look, like this...this hole...not what you were doing!"

Now, I can't help because I know zip about playing the recorder, or any musical instrument for that matter.

"Fine!" Darby answers. "But I know already...and I can play the way I want."

"It won't work," Beth harps on.

"Okay, girls...let's give each other some room for individual choice on proper fingering...can we do that?"

"It's wrong though," Beth sighs and lifts her recorder to her mouth.

Two notes are played and Darby stops.

"No, that's not right...look, look...right's a B!"

Beth stabs at the piece of paper I'm holding to prove her point.

My God. It's Mozart and Salieri all over again. C├ęzanne and Zola. W.C. Fields and...anyone.

Getting them to practice the music that they'd written was near impossible. I tried counting them into it, threatening them into it — do I need to find new musicians, girls? —sending them back to class without dinner or a private rehearsal — that's it, I'm done.

Every week they missed their cues in run-throughs, putting me into an equally bad mood.

They glowered, snapped and rolled their eyes at each other. And recess I'd catch them hanging out and laughing like best friends.

They often asked to help clean up Room 39 after club meetings and they'd argue about that as well.

"No, you don't hold the broom like that!"

"Yes, you do!"

My husband insists the Royal Shakespeare Company likely has to deal with this stuff all the time. "Which proves you're on the right track."

He's correct. I've seen this enough times with adult geniuses. I know the root cause of the tempest is fear. I knew an Oscar-winner who vomited every night before going onstage...pure terror. I've seen actors lock themselves in their trailers for hours until their cold feet warm up.

And I know the only way to deal with it is to ignore it.

So, I quit the threats and stayed quiet. In a run-through, when their cue came up, I made sure no one nudged them and we all waited...and waited...until they grabbed their dang recorders and bolted to center stage.

And I prayed that on the day they would calmly, confidently and, in unison, answer Orsino's call to "Play on!"

They did. They accepted the accolades of their families, and my anxiety was entirely wasted.

Dear Anne hatawha,

My life had chanded so much, I got a gob and then the pleg hit! So then I started to rit pomes. I erned so much munny. Say hi to Hamlet.

William Shaksfear
Henry, 3rd grade


  1. I feel frustration with them all over again so accurate is your account!

  2. Well, now they're someone else's fifth graders...just walk on by.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.