Wednesday, February 16, 2011

When Bad News Is Good News



Six years ago no one at our school could even imagine what The Shakespeare Club would be. I barely knew myself and it was my big idea.

The good news: We all know its worth, and it's a success.

The bad news: We all know its worth, and it's a success.

This year, for the first time, I was campaigned, in whispers, by parents.

"Pillow has been working so hard on her lines!"

"Bottle-top is excited about auditioning!"

Of course, I would have taken cash, but no one offered.

Listen, if I had a child at this school, I'd campaign for them too. As it turns out, Shakespeare and kids is a good combo.

For the first time, children came in coached to the point of using English accents. For the first time, I was overwhelmed by how much so many wanted to participate.

"Rachel, let's grade the kids' auditions 1 through 5, with 1 being the best. Agreed?"

"Absolutely," Rachel answered, and we met with one actor after another.

Each child was unique and sweet. Each one ready to pretend a filing cabinet was a bushy tree filled with snakes and beetles to be kept away from Titania, the Fairy Queen. Each one took a leap of trust and made the job of choosing near impossible.

I'm not necessarily looking for great actors — although when those show up, they cannot be ignored. I'm really interested in enthusiasm. Often the shyest kids will reap the largest benefits as they discover courage. Many times a shrinking violet will be an excellent writer.

After we'd seen about ten children, I leaned over to compare Rachel's grading to my own.

"What?" I asked as she pulled her paper away from me. "Come on, show me what you've got."

"Mel."

"Yeah?"

"I couldn't help it. I gave them all ones."

"You what?"

"They're all so cute. I want all of them in the club."

"Oh, for Pete's sake. You're useless, Rachel. You have to be ruthless here."

"I know, I know."

Until the day arrives that I have successfully transformed this public elementary school into a Shakespearean academy, the job of auditioning is simply going to get more difficult. Especially with a softie like Rachel helping out.


CHILDREN'S WRITES: A Journal Entry

I wanted to be in Shakespeare club this year because I've been waiting to be in it for 3 years. It was a privlage to get in this year because Mrs. Ryan told when I was aditioning that basicly 24 people get in Shakespeare club. I also want to be in Shakespeare club because I love acting and I like William Shakespeare.
—Bridget, 3rd grade

Shakespearean academy graphic from Flickr user inacentaurdump

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