Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Released



"Holy mackerel, what happened to you guys?"

All ten fifth-graders shuffled into Shakespeare Club a full twenty-five minutes late. The third- and fourth-graders, already seated, joined me in watching their fellow club members file in. Backpacks dripped off bony shoulders to the floor and the kids slipped into their seats looking ready to sleep...perchance to dream....

Dominick promptly dropped off, with his chin tipped to his chest. Rebecca, seated next to the boy, flagged me with a worried look and pointed at him.

"It's okay, Rebecca. He'll come back to us," I assured her.

Our auditorium appeared to drain of all color. As if a giant hand had turned a dial and we were transported into a 1940s black-and-white movie. As if we were in the Soviet Union and the gates of a Gulag had creaked open to release its prisoners.

No one answered my query. No one could find the words or energy to put those many lost words into a sentence.

"Was it Mr. D.?" I asked. "Did he get mad at you? Did he yell?"

To this question I received exhausted nods.

Let me be clear that I hold no opinions on the teaching abilities of the educators at our school. I have not spent any time in the classrooms. We could have the best teachers, or the worst, or a mix; I really do not know.

Maybe on this day, Mr. D. had just cause. Maybe on this day, it was considered necessary. Maybe on this day, someone had a bad day and others bore the brunt. I do not know and will never know.

"Okay, what do we do with this?"

Silence.

The foot of a chair squeaked. The sound ricocheted off the walls.

"In real life we are not allowed to sass back at grown-ups, right?"

A few heads were raised.

"In real life we can't shout at our moms or dads. We can't stomp our feet and have a tizzy-fit at another kid and we can't call people names, right?"

No. NO. NO WAY.

"But in the theatre, folks pay big bucks to see that stuff. In the theatre, it is our job sometimes to cry and scream and lose it. In the theatre, it is expected. Check out the scene that Hamlet has with his mom after she marries his creepy Uncle Claudius."

HAMLET
Mother, what's the matter? Why did you send for me?

GERTRUDE
Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended.

HAMLET
Mother, you have my father much offended.

GERTRUDE
Come, come, you answer with an idle tongue!

HAMLET
Go, go, you question with a wicked tongue!

GERTRUDE
Have you forgotten who I am? And your proper place?

HAMLET
The Queen, wife of your husband's brother,
And, would it were not so, you are my mother.

"A few years ago we did this play in Shakespeare Club, and I know for a fact the boy playing Hamlet was a little annoyed in real life with his real mom — but he couldn't do much about that...until he got to this scene. Then he had a blast."

Smiles cracked lackluster cheeks and broke through the clouds as little minds pondered this idea. Color seeped back into our auditorium and spines straightened.

"Who here is ready to act?"


CHILDREN'S WRITES: A Journal Entry
If I was Anne Hathway I could be very upset if my husband left. I could be kind of happy so I can spend time with my children. If I was the queen I would be very greedy. I would make him do 3 plays every month, but I would not care if he did the same plays over and over. Sometimes I would just invite him to have around. I would make him bring a pen and paper. I would make him write poems.
—Phoebe, 5th grade

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