Friday, January 29, 2010

Dominick


November, 2009

As a mere fourth-grader, Dominick had already earned a tough reputation. In third grade, he'd been accused of bullying and was asked to leave the Props Crew. I was aware of Dominick but I didn't know him. I watched our principal give Dominick hugs or sit on a bench next to him for a chat. She doled out empathy in a calm voice where others appeared to throw up their hands in frustration.

"I wanna be in Shakespeare Club!" Dominick shouted every time he saw me.

I shuddered a little because if even half of what I was hearing about the boy was true, I sensed it might not be a good mix.

"Well, you have to audition, Dominick," I'd answer on the tail of a hasty exit.

I learned Dominick had been moved around in foster care. From birth, his little body had indirectly ingested chemicals no baby should be exposed to. Dominick was fighting for direction, to find his balance and sometimes he stumbled, badly.

Oh dear. Dominick signed up to audition for the club and handed me his application form, completely filled out by parents who had been raising him and his sister for the last seven years.

"Do you want to read your material or did you learn it by heart, Dominick?"

"I learned it," he answered with hands tucked deep into his hoodie pockets.

"Okay, here's what we do first, kiddo. Come and sit in this chair next to me."

Dominick strode across the room with a kind of forced braggadocio. He sat across from me and gave me a wary look.

"I'm looking for actors who can be in charge of their own bodies. Actors with the sort of brain that can tell their body what to do or not do. Here's how we start our meetings in the Shakespeare Club."

I talked Dominick through a short meditation, as I did with every child who auditioned. One of the biggest challenges for kids is to close their eyes. The act requires trust. I ask them to sit very still and picture a red sun setting over the ocean. Then I talk them through deep breathing.

Dominick did it. Easily. He went somewhere else and his shoulders fell into a relaxed place.

"Okay, sir, well done. Now let's have you stand over here and imagine that this rack of books is a tree filled with all the critters in the forest that you're going to command to stay away from the fairy queen. Go for it, Dominick. You get to be the boss of them."

    Weaving spiders, come not here;
    Hence, you long-legg'd spinners, hence!
    Beetles black, approach not near;
    Worm nor snail, do no offense.

Dominick attacked the speech hard and fast in a big voice.

"That was good, Dominick. I'd like you to try one thing for me."

"Okay."

"Let's see what happens if you do it with your hands out of your pockets. Just an experiment."

When any actor, large or small, courageously steps up to audition and suffer the terrifying prospect of judgment, it is a stirring thing to witness. When it is a young boy who has already suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and does his best to still his shaking body, it could make a person weep.

Dominick wanted this so very much. I later found out that he downplayed the whole enterprise to his parents.

"I don't know...I might audition...I might not....Maybe I'll do props or something else...."

All the while he secretly worked on his audition material. I saw right through to his heart, so full of desire, that every warning I'd received about Dominick evaporated from my brain as easily as if I'd punched delete on a keyboard.

"Dominick, here's the deal with Shakespeare Club: The actors need to have control over themselves. They have to take direction and sometimes wait for long periods of boring time until it's their turn to act. You and I both know you've had some troubled days at school so I'm going to ask you straight up: Do you think you would be up for this?"

"Yes, Ms. Ryane, I would."

"I can't take everyone, Dominick, but I'll be deciding soon and you'll get a letter by Thanksgiving. In the meantime, I want you to know, you did a fine audition today. Good work, sir."

"Thank you, Ms. Ryane."

In.


CHILDREN'S WRITES: A Journal Entry
I want to be in Shakespeare club because it was my first step of being an actor. Also I wanted to become a real actor when I am older. Today I learend about William Shakespeare's childhood.

When he was born his parents said he will be a writeing prodigy. His life as a child was not so grate because he had to wear, a dress, from three years old to seven years old.

When he had to go to the bathroom go and do his buisness and the throw it out the window.
—Dominick, 4th grade

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