Friday, June 4, 2010

Going Private: Mark


He's whippet-thin and quick as a rabbit. It's taken Mark months to focus his energy and hold a Warrior One yoga pose without throwing himself on the ground for laughs. His hands appear to work independently from the rest of his body when they reach out and grab at a fellow actor. He's a boy's boy and there's no getting around it.

"Mark."

"Mark."

"Mark!"

And the innocent, wide-eyed blink.

"Yes, Ms. Ryane?"

Mark is playing Malcolm, King Duncan's eldest son and heir to the throne. He's learned his lines and gets points for that. But he rattles them off so quickly that it's anyone's guess what he's going on about.

"Okay, mister-mister, you and I are going to tackle this language once and for all. But first we're going to take a look at your journal writing. You started out pretty well but in the last few weeks you haven't been writing more than a few words."

"Yeah," he nods in agreement.

"You want to make Honor Roll, don't you?"

"Yeah."

"Okay, I'm going to help you. Today I want an essay on the theme of power and, by essay, I mean more than half a sentence. I'll sit over here and you go for it. What power means to you, when you wanted it or had it or would like it."

I made myself comfortable at the back of the classroom while Mark opened his journal up at the front. Fifteen minutes later, he looked back to say he was finished and I asked if I could read it.

"Well done, now take a look at your character essay and finish that one. Good?"

"Okay."

After he'd written the pieces it was time for the young Malcolm.

"Mark, don't be afraid to use your foot to stomp hard on some of these words. It can really help you spit them out clearly."

MALCOLM
Every soldier must cut a branch from the trees
And hide himself behind one of these.
We'll shadow our numbers we as move up the hill.
Macbeth won't guess our numbers still.
Together our armies will fight as one!
The battle for Scotland has just begun!

I handed Mark his prop, a small green plastic branch.

"You have ten thousand soldiers listening to you right now. Look out there at our schoolyard. We'd barely be able to fit that whole army there. That's a lot of soldiers and it's up to you to inspire them. You have to make them want to fight for you, to take down the bad King Macbeth. Go."

Mmmm. Not so hot.

"Okay, Mark, look at me. See how I'm lying down on this table? I'm going to take a nap and you have to use your speech to wake me up. Go."

Mmmm. Not so hot.

"What...? Who's making that little noise?" I look all groggy and half-sit up. "Oh, I see it's just Mark....Night night, Mark."

We did this a couple more times and then he stomped his foot hard, held up his branch, raised his arms in a call to arms and used his biggest voice.

"What?! What's going on here? Who woke me up?"

This is where my acting career has taken me.

"Did you feel that, Mark? Did you feel the tingles up your arms when you did that?"

"Yeah, I did," he says with a mischievous grin.

"That's acting, my friend. That's what it feels like. You do that, keep up the journal writing and you will make Honor Roll, I just know it."

"I could stomp my foot like that always, you mean?"

"Always and every time."


CHILDREN'S WRITES: A Journal Entry
Malcolm

I live in a palace
My friends are my brother and Macduff. I eat pig, cow, rice and chicken. I believe Macbeth killed the King. I want to kill Macbeth and stick his head on a stick. Go at night and cut threw everything and cut his head off and stick it outside on a stick. I'm afraid of some one thinking we ate the murderers.
I'm afraid of the murderer.
I'm loyal to my family, I'm loyal to my father. I have a lot bravery.
—Mark, 4th grade

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