Friday, October 29, 2010

Halfway Home



The children of The Shakespeare Club ate their lunch on performance day in a record five minutes then hurried back to the auditorium and banged on the door.

Inside said auditorium, I was relishing what I'd hoped would be a half hour of dead quiet. I tried to pretend I was dead. I imagined a world where I could no longer hear or see. An existence of floating in peaceful darkness like an isolation tank—

"MS. RYANE! IT'S US! IS IT TIME FOR US TO COME BACK? MS. RYANE, CAN YOU HEAR US?"

Oh yeah, I hear you. I blinked open my eyes, took a deep breath and lumbered to the doors.

This was my own damn fault. I had no one to blame. I was the pusher, I got them hooked and now they were all half-crazed theater addicts in love with themselves and what they could do under hot lights in front of a full house.

After they'd gulped their lunches, they lurched across the quad and into the arms of fellow students. The Shakespeare Club actors were rock stars and they LIKED it.

The littlest audience members were the most entranced. The kindergarten kids and the first-graders have not yet developed the kind of cool that sets in at fourth grade, so they outright grabbed on to Macbeth's pant legs and threw themselves at the feet of Macduff. They stared up at Lady Macbeth and Lady Macduff with the kind of adoration one might expect for Lady Gaga.

I creaked open the auditorium doors, giving up on any chance of more private time, and let them inside their new favorite place in the world. Their new home, where blood runs fast and heads can spin right off a torso: THE THEATRE.

"Hey, I kinda said 12:30 but I guess 12:15 is okay. But you have to sit quietly in the front row. Quietly, quietly," I said, as if I were holding on to a moving migraine.

I perched in front of them as they gathered in rows facing me.

"This is your time to pause and settle. This is also your time to go to the bathroom because, as you now know, actors don't leave the stage and ask the audience to wait while they take a little pee break."

"Ms. Ryane?"

"Yes, Mark?"

"Are we going to have more notes now?"

"No. Notes come after a performance. Remember we did the ones after the 10:30?"

"Yeah," he nodded, then added, "I hate the notes part."

"But after the notes you got this morning you'll have a better time for the 1:00 and maybe get better notes."

"Yeah." And then added, "But couldn't you give those to me now instead?"

"Nice try, Mark."

Rachel and Rob arrived after their lunch break. The lighting and sound crew reset their boards.

"Okay actors, close your eyes, hands on tummy and big, big breath. Hold it, hold it, hold it...and let it go. We're about to do your first real show. We're about to be halfway home. Big breath."

All my own damn fault, and yet as they sit compliant, ready and excited...I remember. I remember those days when I first stepped onstage, in lights, with big words, and held an audience rapt.

As drugs go, it is the least resistible.


CHILDREN'S WRITES: A Journal Entry
When I wanted love was when I broke my collarbone. Well. I no people loved me but I wanted more. I was really sad.
Faith, 5th grade

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