Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Recess: Getting Around


March, 2009

"Stand up, please, and face me. Let's pretend I'm the audience."

"Only one person? Must be a bad show!"

"Thanks, Luis, very funny. Okay, everyone lift up their right hand."

This is not as obviously simple as it might seem. For some the right arms go up fast. Others study both hands to decide which is which and still others look around to see what choices their friends have made.

"Right hand down. Left hand up."

This goes a little more quickly because there is only one hand not yet used.

"Right foot. Good. Left foot. Better. Have a seat."

On the board I've drawn the stage directions. As I rise to point out the diagram and start this little game, the voices ring out behind me:

"What's the snack today, Ms. Ryane?"

"Are we doing a...a...you know...one of those run-through things?"

"I don't have my script!'"

The trick, I've discovered, is to whip back fast and face them. When I turn my back they actually think I've left the room and chaos descends.

"These are called 'stage directions' and when a director needs you to be in a certain place it's your job, as the actor, to move there on your own. As you face the audience, your right hand is stage right; your left, stage left. When I ask you to move toward the audience, that's called downstage. When I ask you to move away, that's upstage. Got it?"

"Yes!"

"Really?"

"Yes!"

Not a chance.

"Calvin, run to center stage."

Little skinny Calvin stares at me. Calvin of third-grade. Hungry Calvin whose teacher has to sneak him breakfast because someone at home forgets. Calvin who wrote about his little dog, Spongey, that "raned away."

"Where do you think center stage might be, Calvin....Give it a thought. It's okay, we can wait."

Meanwhile the smarty-pants in the group bounce out of their chairs like popinjays.

Calvin points a worried finger in front of him.

"Can you walk to where you're pointing, Calvin?"

This is slightly problematic for Calvin because he wants to take a chance but his body is pulling him back in the chair for fear of making a mistake and suffering the guffaws sure to pour over him.

"You can do it, Calvin....I think you know exactly where center stage is....One, two, three — RUN!"

Calvin lands in the middle of the room and widens his eyes, expectant.

"Right, you got it. Pay attention, guys...here we go: Geoffrey, stage right. Belinda, downstage right...." They wobble and circle but find the spots.

"Kate, upstage left....Nope, not next to Calvin...upstage left."


They watch me and take baby steps as if playing "hot/cold" but eventually every spot is filled. Then the area is cleared and I start over with a new list of names. The game will prove helpful when we get into the auditorium for our technical rehearsal because I will not go up there, if I can help it, to move them around.

I don't need to. They're pros.

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