Thursday, March 25, 2010

O Brave New World

"O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is!
O brave new world,
That has such people in't!"


Hedgehog is so excited to play the part of Miranda in the third-grade production of "The Tempest" this spring...which only goes to show how very very different she and I are, the difference becoming more and more apparent with age. As a child, I always had certain deeply ambivalent feelings about being the center of attention. Within my comfort zone--in conversation, among friends--I enjoyed it. But performing? Oh goodness no. From the youngest age, I became weak-kneed and hyperventilatey at the mere thought of standing before an audience and saying lines.

In junior high and high school, I was very involved in puppetry (which gives you an idea of what my school was like, that puppetry was a serious pursuit). I loved the creative and mechanistic process of puppet construction, the engineering involved, and learning how to manipulate them in performance. But most of all, I was glad of the opportunity to go before an audience yet not be seen--hidden away behind a barrier--my puppets spoke for me, and were brave for me. Still, even then, crouching in the darkness, clutching my puppets' sticks in sweaty hands, I had stage fright.

Hebrew School plays were torture. I remember playing Potiphar's wife in a production of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" and going through agonies beforehand. My mother had to literally stand in the wings and shove me onstage...a kindly shove, but a shove nonetheless...

When we had to recite memorized passages of poems and plays, as we frequently did, I could sometimes cajole my teacher into hearing my lines out in the hall away from my classmates. Even then, I would blush my way through the process.

My Bat Mitzvah was a crucible. Eighty pairs of eyes on me, watching as I chanted Torah and gave my homily...

I overcame this terrible performance anxiety to some extent, finally, when I taught college. I had to, or my then-livelihood would have been in jeopardy. Although I had to catch my breath before beginning class, and my palms were always clammy, I even came to enjoy the lectures, the feeling of power that came with commanding attention from a room full of people--and sometimes, when the lectures were good and the vibe was there, the connection between student and teacher, it was something like euphoria! And I could suddenly understand, just a little bit, the appeal of performing...

But never ever in childhood...which is why I admire my 9-year-old Miranda so much. She's excited--not scared, not self-effacing, but genuinely excited to learn lines and get dressed up and stand before an audience and act! Simply amazing to me.




Illustration of Miranda by Waterhouse

36 comments:

Ponita in Real Life said...

Good for Hedgie!!!

And good for you, for getting in front of your classes and finally learning to enjoy the interaction that comes with sharing information with a room full of people.

I used to be afraid... but somehow, somewhere (and I know not where) along my trek through life, that fear has left me. I must have a little more of my mother in me that I thought...

LadyCat said...

It goes to show that you have instilled self confidence in her at an early age. But, I'm with you, mine came from years of experience.

Hunter said...

I remember the day there was a big rumble between the school puppeteers and the D&D dungeon masters. The battleground was littered with blood and broken strings and eight-sided dice that looked like little plastic jewels.

Brian Miller said...

very cool. i am sure your encouragement has played a huge role in her self confidence...i was a puppeteer way back in the day...

savannah said...

how exciting and what a great school miss hedgie attends, sugar! it is wonderful watching our daughters grow up! i look at super nana and know, even with my parenting mistakes, she is marvelous! xoxoxox

willow said...

So similar to my daughter and myself. I have nightmares to this day about being on stage and forgetting my lines, while my daughter basks in the limelight in her career.

xl said...

Good for her! And it's a fun play too.

The Unbearable Banishment said...

You've got to be kidding me. They're doing *Shakespeare* in the third grade?!?! I can barely handle it now and I'm a full-blown adult. Well done, Hedgehog. I'm impressed.

nick said...

Glad Hedgie is so confident about performing. I must say I'm like you, I don't like too much attention on me. I had one or two walk-on parts in school plays but never any major roles. I've never had any job that involved speaking to large numbers of people, I would find it totally terrifying. Like you, I can only really relax with small groups of people I know and trust.

Ronda Laveen said...

I know what you mean. I was always, and still am, much happier behind the scenes. Props, costuming...that type of thing.

Congrats to Hedgie. I know she'll be dynamic.

Leah said...

Ponita: it's actually so liberating when you find yourself standing there unafraid(ish)! Isn't it? I guess it comes with maturity, realizing hey, what do you have to lose (except your dignity, lol).

LadyCat: it's a very nice thing to think that maybe Sarge and I had a little to do with it! Funny, I hadn't thought of it that way till just now when you said it...like I was assuming she just dropped out of the sky with all her characteristics already there! : )

Leah said...

Hunter: you have just so completely captured the essence of puppeteering in all its nerdly glory...that I am melting with giggles.

Leah said...

Brian: a fellow puppeteer! That is so cool...well, nerdy but cool, as Hunter so poetically pointed out... ; )

sav: I must say, I'm enjoying Hedgie so much as she gets older. Even more than when she was little--possibly because now I can stand back and see her for what she is, now that she doesn't need me as much.

willow: isn't it fascinating the dichotomies of mother and daughter?

xl: it's a great play--I'm just re-reading it now.

UB: they've actually taken out an act, I believe, skillfully though so that it still makes sense. And Hedgie tells me that after the break they're going to go over the play to understand it, line by line. I think of all the plays, "the Tempest" might work well for kids--well, that, and "Midsummer Night's Dream."

nick: I'm in my element in a small group! But yes, stage fright still rears its head when I'm called upon to speak before a larger group. I got used to the classroom, but haven't done it in awhile, so am once again back where I started, perhaps. Haven't really put it to the test lately...

Ronda: I always think behind the scenes is where all the power is...

Betsy said...

Awwww...she is so wonderful! And 9 years old is a super age to be!

Jimmy Bastard said...

"Simply amazing to me" - The apple rarely falls far fae the tree hen.

Megan said...

Oh, lordy, I still remember with PERFECT clarity that time in 5th grade when I had ONE line to say, and totally blew it!

Brrrr, I'm with you, Leah. Give me the black clothes and the black shadows of the stagehand's life.

I'm psyched for Hedgie though. SO unbelievably cool.

Leah said...

Betsy: 9 is the absolute best! I can't tell you how much I'm enjoying this time.

Jimmy: Oh, I wish I could be as awesome as E. I aspire to it!

Megan: "black shadows of the stagehand's life." Yup, that's perfect. You still could not for love nor money get me to speak lines in front of people.

Pat said...

What fun! She's in for years of delight and - vicariously - you also.

Everyday Goddess said...

I really loved this! I gave you one of my weekly awards, so please stop by to collect it when you can!
xo
Elise

Baino said...

I mentioned this on Facebook but I'm not only amazed that she has such confidence but that they're actually putting Shakespeare on in primary school! Way tough stuff to remember let alone understand! Very impressed. I'm the same with performance anxiety, fine in a small group but addressing a crowd. Both my kids have no such issues! Good on Hedgie, she'll be wonderful!

Tina said...

Well done for bringing her up to be confident. You're a writer not a performer!

Madame DeFarge said...

Great to hear that she's treading the boards. I'm sure she'll be wonderful. A bit better than my sack of corn in the "House that Jack Built'.

Princess said...

Dear Leah,
The days of "chidren beeing seen and not heard" thankfully are gone,
I think that is where a lot of childhood "Stage fright" stemmed from.
These says Kids are encouraged and included. They are also surrounded by interactive technologies that not only encourage but require you to actively participate.

I'm sure that Hedgehog will make a wonderful Miranda!

muralimanohar said...

One of the best times of my life was acting in a summer production of A Winter's Tale with a bunch of other kids ranging from 9 to 17...a Shakespeare lover in Chicago would put this on twice a year for the sheer fun of it, and us kids loved it so much most of them came back year after year. Unfortunately for me, I moved to Arizona a couple months after that one, so I never got to try The Tempest at Christmastime. I can see how Hedgie would be loving it, though. :) I can totally see a daughter of yours getting into the drama of it all. :p

Merely Me said...

"a kindly shove, but a shove nonetheless..." You are the best, Leah! Loved the whole post! Congrats to your angel.

aspel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom said...

some kids take to it naturally...i was like you...wouldn't even participate in the december Christmas concerts. blech.

lettuce said...

good for her! thats very cool

and Shakespeare in grade 3? i'm gobsmacked!

I was always painfully shy in company, but okay with performing on stage.... weird really. I still remember my first lecture tho, I was so terrified - I really identify with your paragraph about that feeling, and the euphoria when confidence started to grow.

Karen ^..^ said...

I'm not at all surprised that Hedgie is looking forward to this. She's a great confident girl, thanks to two wonderful parents. You've given her every tool she needs to give a perfect performance, and she knows that to her core, so she'll do beautifully.

I always had horrible stage fright. I have to take myself sort of out of myself, in order to do public speaking of any kind now. Even addressing a small group makes me stutter a bit.

ROCK ON, HEDGIE, you'll do great!!!

mago said...

Who will be Caliban? :)

Suzanne said...

Your an amazing mom and a wonderful woman...

Suzanne said...

That's you're!!! Sorry honey!!! ;)

Subby said...

I always wondered what it would've been like had I gotten serious about acting. But then again, I play so many "real life" roles now, y'know?

Congrats to Hedgie and hugs to you both :)

knittingitout said...

I'm a little wowed by the third grade rendition of The Tempest.

雅芳 said...

笑口常開~~天天開心........................................

Mr. Shife said...

Way to go Hedgie. And she is going to have the proudest parents in the room. Look forward to hearing about how well she does.