Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What If They Don't Laugh?


April, 2009

"Hey, Ms. Ryane?"

"Yes, Geneva?"

"What if they don't laugh?"

This is the nightmare of actors, directors and writers staging comedies. It's a legit question. "What if they don't laugh?"


Geneva is an intimidating girl. Geneva can be a bully. Geneva has two xs and she has good reason to be worried. I'm not laughing.

We take a meeting in my "office."

"Geneva, I need your help...well, your advice, really."

She sits up, serious, as we face each other on the bench.

"Say I have a member of the club who kinda bugs the other kids. Sticks a foot out to trip another actor, or steals another actor's pencil or doesn't do the journal work...or, I don't know...just acts like they don't care much about the play and stuff."

Geneva carefully considers what I'm saying about this imaginary baddie.

"So, here's my problem....Say this club member has two xs and really has earned the third, which means...you know...kicked out....I'm not sure what to do because I like this actor and I saw real potential last year when they played a small part but...I'm stuck because I have to think what's best for everyone, not just this person."

Geneva nods and gives it some thought.

"Well, Ms. Ryane, I think you should give this person another chance."

"Really? That's what you would do?"

"Yes."

"Hmmm. That's interesting. Like, say, if this was you...that's what you'd want me to do?"

Light bulb.

"Ms. Ryane?"

"Mmmm?"

"Do you mean this person is me?"

I give a puzzled look.

"What do you mean, Geneva? Does this sound like you?"

"Yeah...I guess," she whispers.

"Hmmm. Interesting. Well, if it sounds like you, then I'm going to take your advice. Let's give it another go. Deal?"

We shook on it.

Flash ahead to this autumn. I was walking across the campus when a small first-grade girl ran up to me.

"Ms. Ryane?"

"Yes?"

"Geneva told me to tell you 'Hi!' "

"Are you Geneva's sister?"

"She's my cousin."

"You tell Geneva that Ms. Ryane sends her a hug and says she misses her."

Geneva has five brothers and sisters. Mom is out of the picture and Dad is overwhelmed. Geneva was sent to live with an aunt.

Geneva has just cause to be angry. But she stuck with us and never earned that third x. And when she performed, she was funny.

And everybody laughed.

CHILDREN'S WRITES: A Journal Entry
I would like to have a life of Peace and Purpose and I would help people for charity or help with special needs.

And I would live a life of peace and be able to pay rent, get a good house and a good carier.
—Geneva, 5th grade

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