Friday, July 22, 2011

A Summer Day

I recently invited Audrey and Rebecca to spend an afternoon with me at the J. Paul Getty Museum high atop the Santa Monica Mountains.

I had an idea that strolling walkways of Italian travertine stone and popping in and out of art-filled rooms would allow me a different teaching moment for these two Shakespeare Club thespians.

Our first stop was to the gift shop, where I purchased each a small notebook.

"Okay girls, here's my plan: each of you choose a favorite character from 'A Midsummer Night's Dream.' Write that character's name at the top of a page along with today's date."

They each did as I suggested, then off we journeyed into mid-eighteenth century Paris with paintings, dresses and furniture to dazzle our imaginations. Later we landed in a whirlwind of Impressionist artwork, where we studied cool glades and ladies' hats, and noticed that lots of people in these paintings had dogs and cats.

"I'm going to teach you how to be actor-detectives. Think about what color your Queen Hippolyta might be and make a note. Consider what kind of shoe your Hermia would be or what flavor of ice cream. What music would your Queen Hipployta be, I wonder? Not what she would listen to, but what would she be?"

Rebecca chose faces and dresses and musical instruments for her Hippolyta and scribbled away. She saw her queen as vanilla ice cream, elegant and classy.

Audrey studied the art but didn't write. I could see her brain ticking away but nothing showed up on the page until I mentioned, "Or you could draw...."

And there was no stopping her. Rebecca and I had to frequently stop to wait for Audrey, who in mid-sketch could not lift her pencil from the page. She drew our lunch and sketched a downhill gallop.

"Now, put your own name on another page and make lists or drawings of what music you might be...or ice cream...or color. Then check out the differences or similarities."

We threw copper-pennied wishes into the Getty fountains. I held shoes while the girls raced each other down Getty garden hillsides. We drank fresh lemon-water and shared salads and hot dogs over lunch.

"Audrey, you can see now how your Hermia might sit or walk depending on what kind of shoe she is. Rebecca, you can imagine how your Queen Hippolyta might enter a room depending on what ice cream flavor she is or what sort of hat she might be."

This day was big-girl, big-actor kind of stuff for these two nine-year-olds.

Before we headed back down the hill, we gazed over our city far below to the east and the ocean in the western distance.

This day was a pearl on my necklace of life. A pearl I call a summer day.

Dear sweet sweet Bottom,

I miss you so much. I am wondering why such a handsom guy like you met me. This is the best present to me. I will tell you a secret but do not tell Oberon. Do you want to be married, if so send me a letter. Happy Valentines Bottom

Sincerly, Titania.
—Phoebe, 5th grade

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