Every year, our church (UU) puts on a traditional English Mummers’ Play, “St. George and the Dragon”, featuring as many kids from our congregation as want to be in it. The kids get their first role some time around kindergarten, and every year they play a different role until about 7th grade, which is when most of them choose not to participate any more. There are parts great and small, depending on age and ability, and many many parts with a few lines each for most of the kids in the middle.
The play changes very little from year to year, and as it is essentially one long poem, most kids have much of the play memorized, including my own two.
This year, girlchild played “Buyer”, the first half of a role introduced last year due to the increasing number of children. Buyer comes on stage right after “Turkish Toffee”, a character that has been around longer than our involvement with this congregation.
I’ve been ostensibly helping with the play (“Ostensibly”, because the fine lady who runs it barely needed my help this year.) My job on performance day was to sit front and center and cue any forgotten lines.
Speaking of girlchild, she had a hard time memorizing her lines, but she pulled it through every single time during rehearsal. Then, came the performance. She listened intently for her cue and boldly stepped on stage, declaring “Here come I, Turkish Toffee, I’ll sell you all the finest coffee”. At this point, she paused, realizing there was something wrong. The hushed murmur from the audience didn’t help either. I saw her face flush, as mine would had I been in her shoes. I could feel what she was going through…. the urge to flee and hide and cry is all but overwhelming. Or pee yourself. That too is an option. She stood there, like a deer in headlights, and I tried to cue her and cue her. She eventually heard me, but looked straight at me like my words made no sense. So I took a different tack… I shot her a huge smile, and said “Breathe. Take a big deep breath and start over”. Somehow, she did. She started over, with the right lines. Tentative at first, but but stronger with each line, so that by the time her few lines were over she was speaking them like a true champ.
Then, Buyer tried to pay for her purchase, and when she opened her purse, it opened completely and all the plastic coins went skittering across the entire stage. Poor kid. At least her lines were over, and so she picked them up, put them back in the purse, and walked off stage.
Sure, she messed up her lines, but frankly with the play the way it’s structured, I’m surprised her kind of mistake doesn’t happen more often. I am incredibly proud of her for managing to push through and get her lines out. She showed poise well beyond her 7 years. This, she frequently does, and I find myself forgetting that she’s not twelve yet.