Monday, June 20, 2011

Running Through

And run through fire I will for thy sweet sake.
A Midsummer Night's Dream Act II, Scene II

Henry as Lysander.

Yeah, no kidding. I was ready to run through fire myself after witnessing our first run-through. It was a falling-down, chaotic, incomprehensible mess, and not in a funny kind of way.

This year had been made more difficult because I had ten fifth-graders in the club and their teacher, perhaps burdened by state testing, appeared reluctant to release any of them for private coaching. I grabbed as many as I could on lunch breaks but these kids had big roles, and with a long week between each rehearsal, it was difficult to maintain momentum. All very dicey.

At the end of our run-through, I shot a quick look at Rachel to confirm we were both feeling as if we were up a tree. She gave a tiny nod and I faced the group.

"So, how did you guys feel about that?" I asked.

They slumped in their chairs. They looked as deflated as any professional acting troupe I'd ever seen after a bad rehearsal, and it made me smile. These are little kids, I had to remind myself. The bar for Shakespeare Club had been raised so high I sometimes forgot how short they actually were...until one would ask me for help opening a water bottle or starting the peel of an orange.

Oh right, they have tiny hands. They have tiny hands because they are tiny children, not small adults.

Ellie as Helena.

"That was pretty bad," offered Ellie, the fifth-grader playing Helena.

The other kids nodded in agreement and looked at their shoes.

"Okay, I'm not going to lie to you. It was pretty bad. But pretty bad is about on target for where we are in our process. We can only go up from pretty bad, right?"

"I guess," confirmed Dominick, the fifth-grader playing Oberon.


"Let's remind ourselves of the ritual. After you've brushed your teeth, washed your face and put your jammies on, what do you do?"

"We take our scripts to bed and whisper our lines and they magically go into our heads," Mark answered.

"Exactly right," I nodded. "I will be here to meet with any of you who want to work at lunch. Our next run-through will be better, I promise."

After they'd gone, Rachel and I were cleaning up and I released a long sigh.

"I have to remember every year the first run-through is awful and then I have to further remind myself this program isn't even about the performances. It's about what they're learning and the fast track to learning is through mistakes. It's okay if they mess up as long as they try...right?"

"Right, Mel," Rachel smiled.

We both knew. On track. Our train was on track....Run-through, run-through, run-through....

Kamili as Peter Quince.

How I am like my character is because Peter Quince is bossy, and sometimes I can be pretty bossy. Another way I am like my character is when I like to direct.
—Kamili, 5th grade

high bar photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

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