Monday, February 8, 2010

The Hard Cut: Announcing

November, 2009

I sent my acceptance and rejection letters out right before Thanksgiving and took off because I'm a big chicken and didn't want to face any sad children.

Over the winter break, my husband and I took a trip to explore our state and prepare for a new year and a new decade. We drove north to the Bay Area of California and then made our way south to hike in a redwood forest. We drove on to explore the Monterey Bay Aquarium and then further south to see elephant seals sunning in San Simeon before touring the Hearst Castle and sipping New Year's Eve wine under a full moon over a crashing sea in Cambria.

For the entire trip, I breathed in clear air and thought about the ambitious choice of "Macbeth" and its theme of warped ambition. I pondered on the group I'd picked for The Shakespeare Club of 2010. And wondered about those I didn't choose for this year.

I'm uncertain where and how young children learn stoicism.

"Oh, it's okay."

"I'm fine."

"Sure, I get it....I'm all right."

All delivered with brave smiles, as if I'm the one being let down easy.

I tracked down Celia. She was our very quiet-voiced actor from last year. Celia has three sisters at our school. All four auditioned. I had rejected two last year and decided this was now their turn. The youngest, a third-grader, would have an opportunity down the line. In the meantime, it was not an easy decision to say no to Celia.

"Celia, I have a feeling you might be disappointed about not doing Shakespeare Club this year."

"It's okay."

"A little disappointed?"

"Yeah...a little."

"You know I have to give other kids a chance, right? That's the only reason."


"How would you like to be our sound operator? You'd get your own script and, of course, be with us all day for performances and for our closing party. Think you might like that?"

"Yes, I would like that."

Then I found Beth in the middle of a schoolyard espionage scene. Beth is always chasing, hiding from, or attacking some other kid. Jason Bourne has nothing on Beth.

I tried to get her attention by placing my hands on her shoulders as she ducked this way and that around my body, scouting out the enemy.

"Beth...Beth! Give me one second here. Look in my eyes, Beth."

"Yeah, yeah...." She reached her face around my waist with a hunted look.

"Beth, look at me." She did. "I'm sorry you're not in Shakespeare Club this year but I had to give new kids a chance and I want you to know that it's not because I don't love you. Do you understand that?"

"Yeah, I know. I gotta go, Ms. Ryane, he's gonna get me."

Give that girl a catsuit and some rappelling equipment.

In January, when the club gathered for the first time, an eight-year-old showed up at the door forty-five minutes into our meeting. Rachel brought him inside. "This is Gilbert. He says he's in Shakespeare Club."

"Hi, Gilbert," I said. I remembered his audition and how I decided he wasn't quite ready but next year would have a chance.

"I gotta letter," Gilbert said.

"Hmmm. Okay, Gilbert, here's what I'd like you to do: Go back to the after-school program you just left and I'll give your house a call, okay?"

The next day I had an assistant in the office help me out, translation-wise, because Gilbert comes from a Spanish-speaking home. I studied Gilbert's application and it was clear the boy had filled it out himself and had a parent sign it. We discovered his mother knew nothing about The Shakespeare Club and wouldn't have been able to read his rejection letter. This child wanted in so badly he'd gone to a lot of trouble to make it happen.

I had a one-on-one with little Gilbert and strongly suggested he would have a really good chance next year, and to hang tight. "Can you do that, Gilbert?"

"Yeah, okay," he said with the brave-kid face.

This is why I need a vacation before I embark on this venture. I'm wracked with guilt every night for five months between January and May and need sleep in advance.

Yeah, okay.

I want to be in Shakespeare Club because I will learn knew things, learn how to act, and will help my in speaking, self confidents, and reading.

Three things I learned today was that the Black Plague hit many people in Europe. Also, that William had 3 kids. Finally William's D.O.B. and D.O.D.
—Faith, 5th grade

calla lily by Sarah Grangier; brave kid by Flickr user shahin olakara

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