Magic In The Air

Something magical happened last week.

Daryl was in a play. Now before you nod your head knowingly and pat my back in sympathy for having to sit through a fifth grade production of Shakespeare, let me tell you. These kids were good. I mean, they were really, really good.

The Talented and Gifted program has been putting on these productions with the fifth and sixth graders for a long time. The teachers have become experts at coaxing strong performances from inexperienced actors. They have impressive back drops. The costumes are elaborate. The kids memorize all their lines. In the original Shakespearean English.

The play was A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Daryl was playing the role of Oberon, the Fairy King. He was dashing and mysterious and stern. A presence on the stage. He projected loudly and clearly and spoke in a measured tone, rather than rushing his lines as so many new performers are prone to do. I couldn’t have been more proud.

But he was not the only kid on the stage. He didn’t even have the most important part. In fact, even if he had had no part at all, I wouldn’t have wanted to miss this production. It was truly that good.

When Jane was in the TAG plays, very few boys participated. In fact, her fifth grade year, none of them did. Daryl’s group, on the other hand, had a full complement of boys. And they were stunning. I’ve known the boy who played Nick Bottom since he and Daryl were in Cub Scouts together several years ago. He’s a natural actor!

When Oberon and Puck charmed him into having an ass’s head and caused Titania, Queen of the Fairies, to fall in love with him, the young man hammed it up. He did such a good job of playing a pompous ass in love with himself, you almost forgot he’s barely eleven years old.

The best part – to me anyway – occurred when a scene went wrong. Puck had used the juice from the flower Oberon commanded him to use, but he had charmed the wrong person. The result was that Lysander, who had run off with Hermia, was now madly in love with Helena, who loved Demetrius. Demetrius had also been in love with (and engaged to) Hermia, but thanks to the fairies, now loved Helena too.

Helena was sure she was being mocked as Lysander and Demetrius stumbled over each other to declare their undying love to her. At one point, Lysander, enraged at Demetrius’s interference, decided to challenge him to a duel. As the two built up to that scene, something appeared to be wrong with the boy who played Lysander. He seemed increasingly agitated and upset, and not in a way that matched the script. He began to hesitate, and if we didn’t know better, we’d say he was about to cry.

And he was. He was about to cry because as the pivotal sword fight approached, the young man realized he had failed to don his sword before entering the stage. He croaked out his challenge and then thrust his hands to his face in despair. I was to learn later from Daryl that this particular actor had been very concerned about “getting it right” and here he was without his sword. It was too much for him.

That’s when the magic happened. The real stuff – not the stuff that drips out of fairy flowers. The teacher called out to use his arms. The boy playing Demetrius had his hand on his sword, ready to draw it. Then he glance at Lysander and let go of the wooden sword at his waist. He majestically drew an imaginary sword and waved it in Lysander’s direction. Lysander did the same and they had a grand air-sword fight before hurrying off the stage as the audience, picking up on what had just happened, roared their approval.

The regular, everyday magic of high-achieving and hard-working children continued through to the end, when the special stuff showed back up. As the cast members were introduced one at a time, they would walk to the center of the stage, bow or curtsy or twirl or wave, and then move to the side for the next child.

When Lysander’s name was called, he ran to the front of the stage, drew his sword, and thrust it triumphantly into the air. The raucous cheers are usually reserved for the pompous Nick Bottom and mischievous Puck, and they did get their due. But this night, little Lysander was cheered every bit as much.

His worst fear for the play had been realized and he overcame it. I didn’t even know the kid but my heart burst with pride. That pride continued when I tried to get a picture of my dear Oberon, only to have him brush me off as he went off to find Lysander and tell him what a great job he had done.

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumbered here
While these visions did appear.

No, dear good Puck, you certainly have not offended and I, quite thankfully, did not slumber here. I enjoyed every moment. I enjoyed watching these dear children do grand things, both on the stage and off. I cherished watching my son and his friends take giant leaps toward maturity and confidence and grace. I was mesmerized. Thank you.

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