Friday, April 22, 2011

Shhh, Don't Tell Them

"Sabrina, downstage right."

"Krystal, up center."

"Peter, stage left."

The kids scurry to their places as I call out stage directions. The others giggle and raise their hands, urging me to call on them.

Me, me, Ms. Ryane, call me.

They're learning stagecraft...but don't tell them. They think it's a game.

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night.

I hold my fingers high and count out ten beats to each of Oberon's lines.

"Do this with me," I say, and use a finger to draw a cup in the air followed by a slash. They match me and follow: I know a bank where the wi-ld thyme blows....

They're scanning iambic verse...but don't tell them. They think it's a song.

"Why did Henry the Eighth divorce Catherine of Aragon?"

Because he wanted a baby boy!

"And why did he chop off Anne Boleyn's lovely head?"

Because she had a baby girl and he wanted a baby boy!

"Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived."

Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived!

"What job did William Shakespeare get when he arrived in London?"

Water boy!

"When did he practice writing his poems?"

When the theatres got closed 'cause of the Black Plague, and he sold his poems!

They're studying history...but don't tell them. They think these are crazy stories of a fat, single-minded king and an ambitious theatre wannabe.

Ms. Ryane! Come on tell us another scary Shakespeare story....You promised, come on!

"I did promise and I will, but I didn't say it would happen today....Oooh, I've got a good one, too. All about this girl who liked to climb trees because she was a tomboy and she had this dipsy sister with a bunch of boyfriends."

When I sit on a schoolground bench, they gather around. They ask questions, or jump on one foot, or hold a lunch bag, and stare at me.

"Aren't you going to eat your lunch, Audrey?"

Yeah. And she keeps her blue eyes on mine.

"Anytime soon?"


Wednesday, Wednesday, Wednesday.... Peter hops foot to foot while chanting in anticipation of Shakespeare Club day, as if his incantation will bring the day quicker.

They haven't fallen in love with me. No, they've fallen deeply in love with themselves. 'Tis springtime, after all, when all things bloom with possibility.

"Dominick, let's try the Oberon/Titania scene."

Okay! And guess what, Ms. Ryane? We're going camping on spring break.

"Camping? Like in a forest?"

He jumps straight up. Oh, oh...I just thought of that! Like our play is in a forest!

"Right, so when you see a grassy spot, you can think of where 'Titania sleeps sometime of the night.' "

Ah, children levitating in their own greatness.

They don't know they're swinging on the high bars of language arts. They don't know they're advancing their writing skills, acquiring theatre artistry, disciplining their bodies in yoga, and gaining articulation with voice exercises. They don't know they're learning Elizabethan history or tackling the most advanced works of the greatest playwright.

Please don't tell them. Shhh.

If I were queen Elizabeth I would wear big gowns and silk gloves and have a super big bed. I would love Williams plays and this is what I would write to him in a letter to preform a play for me.

Dear William,

I want you to write a play. I think you are a big success in writing poems and acting. You may gather your best actors and if you want to have certain people to watch with me you may invite them.

If I were queen my name would be Queen Bridget. I would not wear gowns or dresses. I would were jeans and shorts and blouses. I would make a law wich is that everyone can have a personal hovercraft. I would live in Ireland and I would eat el pollo loco and a burger and I cook my own food at home. And I would never become like Henry the 8th. I would be nice but greedy sometimes.
—Bridget, 3rd grade

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