Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Terrible Run-Throughs


April, 2009

We had spring break, a birthday party and then:

A terrible, wicked, hopeless run-through. I stared aghast at the room full of actors NOT off-book, laughing as if it didn't matter, missing cues, missing meetings —

Oh, I wanted to scream. All the private sessions, all the hours, all the props waiting to be used, all the T-shirts ordered — AAGGGHHHHH!!!

At the end of our stumble-bumble-through of "Twelfth Night," which started to feel like "Twelve Hundred Nights," I sat quietly and didn't speak for twelve long seconds.

"So, what did you guys think of that?" I asked. Nicely, I might add.

They shifted their bums on the chairs, looked at each other and shrugged, and then Geoffrey spoke for the group. "That was pretty terrible, I guess."

"Yeah, pretty bad," I answered quietly. Because when they get it, my heart trembles and I want to hug them.

These children have never seen a play. Other than the few who have been in the club for a couple of years, they have no idea what they're in for in May, onstage and in front of a crowd.

"Okay, here's the thing: You have three weeks left. Only three weeks. This is the time, right now, that you have to step up and do the work. You need to track each other down at lunches and at recess to run your lines. You need to practice those swordfights, just using your hands, over and over. You need to follow along with your scripts and not miss cues."

"Kate forgot to move the bench," Darby pipes up.

"And you never, never blame another actor. Remember I'm not going to be up there with you when you do this. You have to count on each other. You're like soldiers in a war, taking care of each other."

"Yeah, my dad was in a war," offers Geoffrey.

"Another thing: When you leave big gaps...in the theatre we say that's a pause you could drive a truck through....If you do that, you'll lose your audience. They'll think it's all over, get up and go home."

After beating them up this much I thought some extra incentive might help. I pulled out a canvas bag.

"I have a surprise for you."

They scream.

"Only because I think you will now take this work seriously. Am I right about that?"

More screams and bobbing heads.

"Look what I brought home from New Orleans for you to wear in the play."

I opened the bag and revealed the colorful beads.

SCREAMS and SCREAMS and SCREAMS.

Kids like noise, no two ways about that.

CHILDREN'S WRITES: A Journal Entry
I learned that I can do anything I like I can be anyone I want I learned that I can do Shakspear..
—Rosa, 4th grade (Year Three)

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