Monday, October 5, 2009

Remembering the Story

March, 2009

A few times a year the school holds parent-teacher conferences in the classrooms. On these days we lose Room 39.

I gathered the kids into the library for a read-through of the play.

"Okay, we've been working pretty hard on our parts and our blocking. Today we're going to sit around these tables and just read the play. You don't have to worry about knowing your lines because we're going to read it as if it were the first time."

"What about my dancing?" asks Luis.

"No dancing today, give your feet a break. Just reading. Okay? Are we clear? Are we ready?"

They each opened their scripts, sat up and did it. It was one of those remarkable events where they did exactly as I asked and they did it well. They read the play like professional actors do at a first reading on a first rehearsal. There was no squirming and no elbowing. No one asked to go to the bathroom or to the water fountain. Snacks were all but a distant memory.

They acted with intention. They picked up their cues. They listened to each other.

For the first time I thought, we may have something here. This "Twelfth Night" may...may...actually work.... I could have been watching a read-through by actors from the Royal Shakespeare Company or the Moscow Arts Theatre; they were that good.

Their work called for a reward and once they were done I put a movie on the small library television to go along with the SNACK: Juice boxes and raisins.

"She's the Man" is a tweener/teener take on "Twelfth Night" starring Amanda Bynes as Viola, a girl soccer player dressing as a boy for a chance to play on a boy's team.

"Polly, that's you!" Kate nudged her friend.

And Polly scrunched in her chair, shy and proud, as if she really was on screen.

All the main ingredients of Shakespeare's play are wound into the movie comedy and the kids in The Shakespeare Club screamed as they recognized their characters.

Henry thought it was riot that Malvolio was a tarantula spider.

When I show movies to the kids I keep my finger ready to fast forward through any dicey scenes: overt romance, sexual content, extreme violence and so on.

I jumped up on a chair, reached to the DVD player and pressed the button to whisk through some kissing when Luis shouted out:

"No, Ms. Ryane, leave it...I gotta learn that stuff, I gotta be ready."

Ten-year-old Casanova.

"Eat your raisins, Luis; we're moving on to the soccer scenes."

I watched them munch, their eyes glued to the screen. They know the story, they'll play the story...they are the story.


When I red a book cald Wind in the Willows and when I read it it feels that I am in that wold. It feels like I am watching then and here what they are saying. And it feels like when they go somewer I go whith them.
—Lizzie, 3rd grade

Ian McKellen photo by Austin Hargrave

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