Monday, April 4, 2011

Tailor Made

The boys want a part that requires a crown or a sword.

The girls want a part that requires a crown or...well, being a girl would be great.

This is Shakespeare, so roles for girls are few. As the day of our casting announcements dawned, the kids were quivery with excitement and my nerves were jangled. By day's end, there would be thrilled actors...and not-so-thrilled actors.

They trembled in their seats as I started my announcements. I had twenty-one parts and twenty actors. One girl, Rebecca, would play two small parts — Queen Hippolyta and the fairy Cobweb — with maybe six lines total.

Bailey clapped her hands to hear she would be our Hermia. Ellie scrunched her shoulders with a sly smile after knowing she would be Helena. Phoebe beamed upon hearing that Titania was hers, and the four fairies were delighted to be fairies...'cause they can fly and be magical and stuff.

"I don't want to be Robin Starveling," a little voice piped.

"Oh, Audrey," I met her big blue eyes. "You're not so happy with the casting?"

She shook her head side to side while maintaining a firm connection to my face.

"You don't want to play Robin Starveling?"

"No, I don't want to play Robin Starveling."

Audrey is in third grade. A serious child and remarkably brave, I thought, to be the only actor voicing protest in what she deemed an unfair casting decision.

"Yup, Audrey, I get that. Robin Starveling was not your first choice." I dropped to my knees so we could be face to face. "You and I are going to have a private work session and we're going to take a look at the role of Robin Starveling, okay?"

She nodded but I could see she was not convinced this would end well.

A few days later, Audrey and I sat together in the library with our scripts open.

"First off, tell me why you don't want to play Robin Starveling."

"Well, I have done two plays before," she started, as if I had perhaps forgotten to study her resume, or to speak to "her people" before making my rash decision.

"Hmmm, okay. What else?"

"Well, I've never played a boy!"

"Okay, let's think about this. The character is named Robin and that could be a girl or a boy, right?"

She gave a tiny nod as she thought that over.

"And what is Robin Starveling's job?" I asked.

"A tailor."

"Right, and what does a tailor do?"

"Well, fix this, for one thing." She drew my attention to a small hole in her blue jeans.

"Correct, a tailor would do that, but also a tailor could also be a great designer. Like say, what if I came to your shop and said, 'Robin Starveling, I'm going to Duke Theseus' wedding and I would like a new coat in maybe purple velvet with maybe beautiful buttons made of diamonds or rubies....Oh, Robin, you're so talented, you decide.' See, that could be Robin Starveling."

The pennies dropped like shiny emeralds and sapphires.

Robin Starveling, Designer to the Stars.

Audrey, content eight-year-old.

In the play I am Robin Starveling. I live in a house like this. It is a small but charming little house. I live upstairs, my shop is downstairs. I am a tailor. I look like this.

I get many customers. My shop is better than the other Tailor's shop. His is big, but he is not as good. Mine is also more private. I only allow one customer at a time.
—Audrey, 3rd grade


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