Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Little Rain Must Fall

May, 2009: Third Performance

Theresa and Polly became good friends through our rehearsal period. The two girls opened the play with the scene between the Ship Captain and Viola after a terrible shipwreck.

I urged both actresses to speak up and speak slowly. When one spoke quietly, the other matched her level. When one sped up, the other followed.

By the three o'clock performance, the cast was ripe for capsizing. They were tired. Their fellow students had seen the show and now they would be at the mercy of primarily adult audiences.

I never found out exactly what happened, but when Polly and Ethan's mother arrived for the three o'clock show, something set Polly off. I was onstage making sure props were set and giving last-minute suggestions when I heard whisperings.

"Ms. Ryane...Ms. Ryane." The urgency of the kids' hushed voices indicated something was up.

"Over there...Ms. Ryane...Polly...Polly's crying!"

Indeed. Sitting silently in her chair, fat tears rolled down Polly's cheeks. I moved close and touched her hand.

"Polly, what is it?"

Nothing. Not a move. Not a word. I knelt beside her.

"Polly, tell me...what's happened?"

Next to her, Theresa was nearly as wrought as her friend suffered.

"Okay, girls. We're about to start. We're going to do the play. You know what to do, let's put this matter aside for now and get to the business of acting."

Polly and Ethan are the children of a broken home. Mom was here for this performance. Dad may have been arriving later with his wife. Like I said, I don't know what upset her, but Polly was not well and not telling.

She delivered a robotic performance. Barely audible, she whipped through her speeches. Theresa followed suit and matched her in volume and speed.

When the performance was over, I took a moment with the two of them.

"Okay girls, I don't know what made Polly cry, but here's what I do know....Theresa, when your friend has a rough time you must go up...not down. It doesn't help Polly if you become equally sad. You must help your friend by rising and then she will follow. Do you understand?"

They nodded, agreed and we all hoped the final performance would be better. In the meantime, the pooped thespians needed dinner and distraction.

In the library, food was readied along with a movie. I stuck "Shakespeare in Love" into the DVD player while they wolfed down pizza, turkey wraps and a fruit plate in record time.

When I show the kids a movie and there may be dicey scenes, I press the fast-forward button. Of course, I had seen this movie and knew they would love seeing Elizabethan London with its mucky streets, poop tossed out windows, the Globe theatre, the groundlings...well...all the stuff we'd explored with the giant exception of Gwyneth Paltrow's boobies.

Ms. Paltrow's balcony was visible far more than I'd remembered and was now FROZEN on screen as the DVD player malfunctioned. I frantically pressed the FF button to no avail as every single member of The Shakespeare Club screamed, hid their eyes and yelled some more.

After months of rehearsal and four performances, the single memorable item for these kids, the one thing they would write about in their classroom essays, was that "Ms. Ryane showed us an R-rated movie!!!!"

Suffice to say, the experience cheered Polly and Theresa right out of their doldrums and woke everyone up for the final performance.

I could have been fired on the spot and still imagine a pink slip could show up any day.

If I could do anything out of peace, purpose and adventure, I would choose adventure. For adventure, I would travel all over the U.S.A. to every state and write an essay about their history.

When I grow up I want to a famous soccer or softball player or singer and a mother!
Alice, 5th grade

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