Friday, January 15, 2010

Final Performance: 'Twelfth Night'

Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em.
Twelfth Night Act II, Scene V

May 28, 2009

Last year, when Belinda played Juliet, she shocked the ten-year-old boy playing her father, Lord Capulet, when she crawled across the stage, grabbed on to his skinny leg, held tight and begged not to be wed to Count Paris. That poor kid looked up, burst out laughing and, when he realized she was serious, carried on the scene. Belinda has that kind of power. As an eight-year-old, she wore the savvy bravado of a true professional.

In our production of "Twelfth Night," Belinda carried the story in her expert reading as the Narrator. However, by our final performance, I twigged that something was amiss. I could hear it in her voice. Belinda was unusually dull for the six o'clock show. I guessed the lackluster quality might be exhaustion and pushed the thought aside as I was finally able to watch the kids freely, without taking notes.

Their work was funny and jubilant despite the onset of major butterflies. This was the show attended by parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and neighbors. This was the one they most wanted to get right. I'm always moved by artists who care so deeply about pleasing their audience. As these children leapt higher and reached across the auditorium to grasp hearts, I felt tears sting my eyes.

After the curtain calls, mayhem ensued when family members crowded for pictures and greetings. I met, shook, hugged and accepted lovely bouquets of flowers. Over the cacophony I heard Sydney, the fourth grade teacher, calling for my attention.

"Mel...Mel...over here...Belinda...Mel!"

I nodded to Sydney over many heads and signaled that I was trying to get to her side of the room, but it took me a few minutes. In that time, Sydney grabbed one bunch of flowers from my arms and when I finally got to her....

Belinda, entirely still, in a swirling movement of joyful kids and their relatives, tears dripped down her cheeks and, in her arms, a bouquet of pale yellow roses.

"What?" I asked. "What happened?"

No one came to see Belinda that night. Not her mom, her granny, her sister or the mysterious dad that lives in Las Vegas. An aunt came at the end to drive her home.

As the actors sat onstage that night watching the audience file in, Belinda too watched as no one from home showed up.

I do not for one second believe that Belinda's family purposely decided not to come. Something must have happened. A car broke down, an illness, a...something.

But she was so very still. It is a startling thing to see all the way inside to a child's heart as it cracks like a sheet of ice hitting liquid. To see instant maturity and know that it is way too soon for this kind of wisdom.

"Belinda," I leaned in close, "we are your family too. Everyone in the Shakespeare Club is your family and we all saw what you did today and it was great. It was magnificent. We saw it. I saw it. Sometimes, Belinda, that's what happens in the becomes your other family."

It was the best I could do. I sent her off with the roses for the long drive home with her aunt.

The roses, by the way, came from Nathan, and he should know they went to a a more deserving recipient.

I went off for a margarita and a hell of a sleep.

My characters name is Lord Capulet and he lives in Verona. He wants his daughter Juliet to mary a man named count Paris. In the end the gangs learn a lesson. They learn the violence is wrong.

This is my second year in the Shakespeare club. I'm not as nervous about the performance as I was last year because I am experienced and that will help me with this performance.

Many people have heard of the story "Romeo and Juliet" but most people don't know what the story is about. And it's mostly kids that don’t know. So the Shakespeare Club gives the kids a chance to perform real plays written by William Shakespeare.
—Cole, 5th grade (Year Three)

rose photo by David McKeen


  1. Mel... You said it exactly right to Melinda. The Shakespeare Club is her family in the true meaning of family. They share and care. You are also right that she is way too young for the chilling truth that pierced her child's heart that evening. But, believe me, the family of you and her brother and sister performers and techies will come to be dearer and dearer to her. You can give her a soft place to fall back into when the world proves hard, and I know that you will. I send you my respect and adulation, and I send Melinda the spot in my heart she has claimed as her own... By the way, I will be presenting a seminar in LA on May 26 (or so it seems). If there is any chance that I can see you or experience the Shakespeare Club I would be thrilled... Alice

  2. Oh my gosh,Alice...May 26th is my birthday! And The Shakespeare Club will be performing on May 27th. I would love for you to come! See them, they will be amazing. I'll send you the address on FB.


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