Monday, June 21, 2010

The Votes Are In

Be assured the theatre world does not operate as a democracy. Nor should it. The first rule of Shakespeare Club: Listen to your director and do as she asks.

However, it can be beneficial to occasionally give the actors a vote. Every April, when William Shakespeare's birthday shows up mid-month, we take time off from rehearsal and celebrate with a party. This year I decided to let the kids decide if we should proceed with that plan.

"Okay, here's the deal. We only have a few more weeks of rehearsal. Really, in a month, you're going to be onstage and Ms. Rachel and I won't be. We won't be up there reminding you of when you enter a scene or what you say or what you do."

"Are you going to stay home?" Ellie asked.

"No, no. I'll be in the front row watching and taking notes. Ms. Rachel will be at the back with your stage manager and the sound and light crew."

A couple of club members already knew this because they'd done "Twelfth Night" the year before, but the majority of the group hadn't ever seen a play, much less acted in one, and this was suddenly a dizzying concept.

"So like what what if someone messes up?" Ellie pursued.

"You'll figure it out."

"And also what do we do if no one comes to see the play?" Ellie again.

I could sense this girl was in for some sleepless nights.

"We do it anyway."

The kids shuffled in their seats, shared doubtful looks and worried.

In my first year of Shakespeare Club, I mentioned to the then-principal that the children seemed scared.

"That's okay, Mel" she said. "It's not a bad thing for them to be scared once in a while."

"So, I'm going to give you each a piece of paper and you're going to write your vote on whether we should have a party next week or if we should use the time to rehearse."

"Should we write our names on it?" asked Mark.

"No names will be necessary. Just write 'yes' or 'no' and we'll count them up."

They did as they were asked and I collected the folded squares into a bag. While they started their journal writing, Rachel and I opened the votes.

Of course, I fully expected twenty "yes" votes to scream off the papers. I did not expect the four "no" votes. Rachel and I shared surprised glances.

"Well, the votes have been counted."

They leaned forward in their chairs.

"Looks like next week we'll be..."

They leaned in further, on the verge of a tipsy-over.

...having a party."


"I must say, however, that not everyone agrees. Some among you think we should be rehearsing next week and one person who voted 'yes' also wrote that everyone should take home their scripts and practice their lines."

"That was me!" Ellie cried leaping out of her chair.

Surprise surprise.

I regret that one tie I was climbing in this big tree in my yard. I had a baby doll in my hand and I was going across a medium sized gap. Then my doll fell so I started to reach for it and I let go of the tree and I hit a railrod track and my hed was bleeding and I was crying so hard. I loved the doll so mutch. I just let go. I was 6 years old..
—Ellie, 4th grade

cartoon panel from LOLpups

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