Friday, September 25, 2009

Polly: Making a Willow Cabin

April, 2009

Make me a willow cabin at your gate,
And call upon my soul within the house;
Write loyal cantons of contemned love
And sing them loud even in the dead of night;
Hallow your name to the reverberate hills
And make the babbling gossip of the air
Cry out "Olivia!" O, you should not rest
Between the elements of air and earth
But you should pity me.

Ten-year-old Polly wanted to act so much. I could see a Viola deeply buried in her heart and I knew she could feel the stirrings of the character, but oh, how to get her out?

Polly and I curled up on bean-bag chairs in the school library for some private unearthing of young Viola: the girl dressed as a boy, in love with her boss but sent to woo a lady who's frankly just not that into Duke Orsino.

Thank you, Mr. Shakespeare, for another complicated comedy.

"Give it a go, Polly."

And it came out so fast that I was certain the words hung above us in a cloudy blur.

"Whoaaaa there, Nellie."

"Who's Nellie, Ms. Ryane?"

"Just an expression. Not important. Tell me about Viola. Like, what is her problem anyway?"

"Ummm. Well. Viola loves Orsino but he loves Olivia."

"Righty, right. Kind of a bummer situation. Polly, you have the longest speeches in our production and the audience really has to follow your story and they won't be able to if you go that fast."

"Yeah," she whispers, and brushes a tendril behind her ear.

I don't really think Polly has an idea of how quickly she's going. It's a tricky business when the actor wants so badly to be center stage and at the same time cannot trust it and wants to run home.

"Polly, you know when we do the play and the special colored lights shine down on you guys? Remember last year when the actors were all complaining because the lights felt too hot?"


"I want you to imagine that you are standing in a warm spot of sunshine and let it soak into your skin...stay with it. Also, picture the willow cabin in your mind when you describe to Olivia what you would when you tell me, say, about a dream you know how you see the images...try that."

And off she goes like the Road Runner.

"Polly...whisper it. Kneel on the bean bag, don't even look at me...just whisper the words clearly and just loud enough for me to hear."

She takes the direction and whispers so low that I'm not sure she's even speaking.

" I can hear."




The whispering forces her to slow down, but I'm not sure we'll get to the place...the place she needs to be...that center-stage place.

On Wednesday, in a run-through, Olivia asks Viola: "Why what would you?"

And I wonder, what will she?

And Polly stops to think, takes a breath and the whole speech pours out clearly, slowly...beautifully...and I blow the rehearsal by leaping up and clapping.

The entire class joins in.

"Did you guys see that? Polly jumped. She jumped off a really high building and she flew. We saw it right?"

"Right!" agrees Lyndon, who loves Polly and writes, "Great speech, Polly!" in his notes for that day.

"No goin' back now, Polly. No goin' back. Good girl."

When I'm in Orsino's court I'm ually in my room on the balcony looking at the sky. I spend time outside doing groceries, going to places with Orsino, going to places with my brother, and go overseas to see my parents. I also go to Olivia's house and the funny thing about that is Toby Belch and he is a man with no manners. Overall my life is Boring.

My life in Iliia sucks. All I eat fish, fish and fish. I know so much I should be a fish. I think I'll move on to crab.
—Polly, 5th grade

photo from Flickr user littleTaylor

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