Monday, January 25, 2010


November, 2009

A record thirty-seven children showed up to audition for Year Five of The Shakespeare Club — compared to the first year, when I had to convince ten kids to try this experiment. I think we can officially consider The Shakespeare Club a success.

However. I cannot take thirty-seven. There will be seventeen rejection letters sent out. My husband suggested those not accepted this year could form their own group: The Marlowe Club.

My first task was to find a stage manager. A third-grader, Lucinda, approached me in the schoolyard after seeing "Twelfth Night."

"Ms. Ryane?"


"I wanted to say that I really liked 'Twelfth Night' and I was thinking you must be very tired after doing all that work."

I plopped down on a wooden bench, ready to disclose my exhausted state to this sympathetic ear, when I stopped myself. She was awfully small to be listening to the chit-chat and gripes of an adult.

"What's your name?"


"Hmmm. Lucinda, why didn't you audition for The Shakespeare Club this year?"

Lucinda's long shiny dark hair was pulled into two braids. She studied me with serious eyes from behind her eyeglasses. She gave careful thought to her answer and I had the odd sensation of looking at my own eight-year-old self — with one gigantic difference.

"I don't really think I would like being up front of people....I don't think so."

I would not have said that.

"Would you have any interest in learning about William Shakespeare and studying the plays?"

"Yes, Ms. Ryane, that might be good. But not the other stuff."

"Lucinda, you should be our stage manager."

"What's that?"

"You would be my helper in the meetings and rehearsals. When we do the show you would be in charge of the crew operating the lights and sound. You would take notes about the actors' performances."

Lucinda nodded and thought hard.

"We'll talk more about it and then you can talk to your mom or dad and decide."

We continued our conversation over the next few days. I assured her that she would not have to audition or perform. Lucinda has the careful, thoughtful temperament for a stage manager and she agreed that she would like the job.

So here we were, a week before Thanksgiving, ready to hold auditions. Lucinda went to each classroom, collected the candidates like a mother hen and lined them up on a bench outside the library. Nervous, jittery and peeping like a flock of chicks, they waited to be called in to see me.

They each had a fairy speech from "A Midsummer Night's Dream" as audition material. One for the boys and another for the girls. I also required an application form filled out and signed by a guardian. I managed to see all thirty-seven kids before lunch.

At recess, I talked to Lucinda.

"Lucinda, I'd like your thoughts. You had the outside experience with the children while I met with them inside. Also, you know a lot of these kids from your own classroom."

"Well, I'm not so sure about Beth," Lucinda said. "She might be good but sometimes she kinda pushes other kids around."

Of course, I was very familiar with Beth. She was in the club last year and never cracked a smile. Beth comes from a rough home and has trouble containing her anger. She auditioned that morning but did not have her application form.

"Okay. What's your feeling about Dominick?"

"I think Dominick would be really good. He sometimes has trouble but, Ms. Ryane, if Dominick does something to another kid he always writes a note and says he's sorry and I think he would be really good as an actor. He tries really hard at stuff."

This was interesting. When I shared the audition list to a few teachers, their eyebrows immediately raised at seeing Dominick's name on the list. Then a firm head shake. "No, not that boy."

But here, from a nine-year-old classmate, I was getting just the opposite.

"So, what you're saying, Lucinda, is that Dominick takes responsibility for his actions."


"I'll keep that in mind when he comes in to audition. Thank you, Lucinda, for your input. Go on and take your recess break."

Interesting, indeed.


I want to be in shakespeare club because I wanted to go when I was in first grad but I coudint know I can be the club because I am older I am so happy this is like my wish come ture today because I never got to. Today we learned about the story was shakespear it was about a boy that name was will his father was mean or nice then he was the smartiest boy in his class when he grow up he needed a girl so he found a girl and got maried to her then she had two childreen and her name was suzanna and she had twins and he got made so he went some where eals.
—Krystal, 3rd grade

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