Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Emilia: Ophelia Left Behind

February, 2007

I recently saw a movie, "The Burning Plain," written and directed by Guillermo Arriaga. Themes of abandonment and betrayal spin characters into life-altering, risky and deadly actions. The film is worth seeing to remember that we are human beings who crave love and acknowledgement, and when it's taken away, we react.

Many of the children in The Shakespeare Club have either a missing mom, a missing dad or, in some cases, both parents are...somewhere else.

In my second year of the club we did "Hamlet" and I cast a bright but shy girl as Ophelia, the girlfriend who goes mad.

Emilia was both excited and terrified about getting the role. Rehearsal after rehearsal she whipped around, tossing her bundle of flowers as quickly as she spat out the words.

"Emilia," I started quietly as we worked alone, "poor Ophelia's been dumped by her boyfriend, her brother has gone away and her dad is dead. She's having a rough time, right?"

"Yeah, I guess," Emilia answered and carefully touched the pages of her script.

"I'm going to ask you to trust me. When you walk in the circle and drop your flowers, I'm going to suggest that you do it in slow-motion...kind of like you're underwater...kind of like you're in a dream...know what I mean?"

"Yeah...but...that's hard, Ms. Ryane."

"I know. I know it is. I'm asking you to do a hard thing but I cast you because I know that you can do it. I promise you, Emilia, I won't let you look silly on stage. I promise. The thing is, Emilia, you have to trust me. Do you know what I mean by that?"


"Okay, think about some one you already trust. Like...your he someone you trust?"

"He left us."

Three little words. When she said them she looked straight into my eyes with her clear brown ones. Her face framed by the dark, wild curls of her hair. She was still. She was calm.

"He left us."

And I knew that what I was asking of her was way too much.

Emilia's mom, busy raising three kids and working a full-time job, also had to answer the question, "Where's Dad?"

"He left us," was as simple and true an answer as I'm sure she could come up with.

"Emilia, you're going to be fine. Your Ophelia is going to be perfect. I trust you."

my name is Emilia. I like being Ophelia but I am just so nervous. I like being her at the same time I don’t. I realy wish I was narrator because I don't want to embaras my self.

The characters I liked were Me. I was so great! That’s the only thing I heard. I think everybody was great. But I still love myself Ophilia!
—Emilia, 5th grade

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