Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Goldfish and Mechanicals

Honestly, I have no idea what Will Shakespeare was on, up there in his London garret, when he spun his complicated tales. But I'm guessing he sniffed a little too much ink because it can be tricky to keep track.

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" is certainly not the most elaborate of the Bard's plots, but it's still a tangled story of mortals and fairies alike falling in love with unlikely partners.

In a weekly lunch group called the Plot People, I meet with five girls to unravel the twists and turns of the play.

These girls will be the point people in their classrooms as teachers prep students to see the production.

Every week I offer a pop quiz to the girls.

"Okay, who are the mechanicals?"

The actors!

"Right. And why are they called mechanicals?"

Because! Um. Let's see. Oh, I remember. Because they're like work-people or something like that?

"Exactly. They would be like the mechanics in the village, the working folk who are also part-time actors. Why would there be actors, anyway?"

Because! Um. I know, I know...because like if there was a party or a wedding or something...they could have a play.

"Perfect. Now in 'A Midsummer Night's Dream,' four teenagers end up in the forest, all mixed up. Anyone remember how that goes?"

The girls cast each other looks to see who might speak up first.

Um, well that guy...I know! Lysander! Well...he loves....I know!...I forgot....

And then Tandi, a third-grader, came up with a solution to navigate the hijinks of crazed teenagers in an Athenian forest.

Out of her lunchbox, Tandi grabbed a handful of goldfish crackers. She named each one, picked them up and had them speak to each other.

"Oh, Hermia, I love you!" she pitched her voice high. "Oh, Lysander, I love you too! Let's run away to my aunt's house and get married! Okay!"

Enthralled, we watched one of Shakespeare's enduring comedies portrayed by the Acting Company of Pepperidge Farm.

Whatever it takes, I say. Crunch.

I am Puck. I want to keep Oberon safe and sound. I also hope he gets more faries. But I'll be his favorite. I will give him the most berries and they will be delicous. I will get the best berries from Oberon too. No one will stop me. I'm the best Puck in the world. I will also find the flower that he will need to get the baby! Oberon will be so proud of me because I'm the only farie that will get attention. I will make me a dress with red wild berries to squeeze the color. I am also Oberon's only farie.
—Sabrina, 4th grade

mechanicals: Andrew Murad/New York Times

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