Friday, April 16, 2010

Where Are the Marbles?

March, 2010

I was rehearsing alone with Oliver and Phoebe, a.k.a. Lord and Lady Macbeth. All the kids, as they learn their lines, have a tendency to rattle them off super quickly, as if the words will evaporate if they don't get them off the tongue as fast as possible. They also have pride and want to show me that they did the work and glued those suckers into place.

"This is excellent, Oliver, that you know your speeches by heart. I can certainly see that you've done the work, but here's the next big have to mean them. You have to really talk to Phoebe like a real person. That's the trick of acting, what actors call 'owning' the words, as if you just thought them up right now. Not everyone can do this, but I'm sure you can."

"Oh, I know, Ms. Ryane," Oliver answered. "It's like when I'm at home I work on these and I can't remember them but then when I'm here in Room 42, it's like it all makes sense and then I know what the lines are."

"Well, I'm just the opposite," Phoebe argued, hands on hips. "I know them all at home but I get here and I can't remember a thing!"

This is true of Phoebe. In our last company rehearsal she hung on tightly to her script and I said, "Phoebe, you're having the same problem that all actors face at this point in rehearsal. It's when you know what you're doing and saying, but it's a scary thing to put the baby down. It's time to put the baby down, Phoebe. I'll be here to help and Darby will give you a line when you call out 'Line!' Okay?"

I pried the script from her clutching hands.

"Okay, you two, let's take it from, 'And when goes hence?' "

Phoebe was halfway through "Oh never shall sun that morrow see!" when she stopped, sighed and announced: "I've lost my marbles!"

This is what I call a "turnaround moment." Every teacher and every parent has these. It's when a child, in all seriousness, says something like "I've lost my marbles" as if she were a flummoxed fifty-year-old matron at a church social.

I turned away to bite my tongue and lips. I didn't want Phoebe to think I was laughing at her, but the girl cracks me up.

"Okay," I whispered.

"We have to go back to the beginning, Ms. Ryane."

"Yes, Phoebe, of course, whatever you'd like. But let me say that you have not lost your marbles. Lady Macbeth has lost her marbles, but you're going to be just fine."


She shot me a skeptical look and then launched into the scene, word-perfect, looking straight into Oliver's eyes and those words rolled out, well, like glassy...

I am Lady Macbeth. I live in a white manshon that has 132 rooms. I have four rooms. One is my bedroom. I have wallpapper that have flowers and hearts. My bathroom has a bathtub that is purple and it is seven feet long. Dressing room and meeting room.

My friends are the witches and Lady Macduff. I believe that to be Queen is the best thing I want. I want to be Queen so badly I tell my husband to kill the King. I am afraid of Malcom. I am loyal to Celia, Natalie, and Mariah. I eat sushi, fish, chicken and rice, and mashed potatoes.
—Phoebe, 4th grade


  1. Having had so many "turnaround" moments myself, I thoroughly appreciated your response to Phoebe. Hysterical! Perfect photo! How do you find such great photos?


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