I swore to myself when I began writing this blog that I would only write when I had something worthwhile to say. I am sure that I have had some valuable insights in the last eight months. However, it is the kids of Hollydale Library in South Gate, Los Angeles who have inspired me to put pen to paper.
My story begins last summer 2011 when I was invited to perform a show called India Jane Adventurer Supreme at Hollydale library, by Jenny Wrenn – a very kind, unpretentious, red-haired librarian. The theme was “One World”. My shows generally skew toward younger kids where we explore lots of fantasy and fairytales. When I got to Hollydale library on a sweltering July afternoon – there were a bunch of teens hanging around the library with a few of their younger brothers and sisters scattered amongst them. Needless to say, South Gate is not the fanciest part of Los Angeles and I was a tad concerned with how fantastical, galloping unicorns and the three blind mice playing on the Eiffel tower in Paris were going to play to these rambunctious teens.
However, the theme being “One World” – I figured when we visited the different continents on our adventure to discover where the five Olympic rings were hidden, surely I had something in my ammunition of these many years of performing to engage this age-group. Okay, I was nervous.
What I didn’t bargain for – and isn’t this always the most humbling of old adages – was how much these kids taught me about rising to the challenge and performing.
They sang, they danced and they came up with the “One World Rap”. The self consciousness that one usually associates with teens was noticeably absent. These kids were way to cool for that!
I told the lovely Jenny Wrenn that I had a show specifically for teens – The Shakespeare Show – Lady Elizabeth Shakespeare Tells Tales. Lady Lizzie as she is affectionately known to her friends or Lazy Lizzie as she had been aptly nicknamed by her dastardly Uncle William Shakespeare – mostly ‘cos she’s lazy … has time- traveled from the Globe Theatre in 1599 to the present day seeking the most brilliant and imaginative kids to help her comprehend the incomprehensible – her uncle’s plays. We return to Shakespeare’s’ Globe and the kids audition for various Shakespearean plays.
Several months later and in real time just last week, I returned to South Gate as Lazy… I mean Lady Lizzie. Generally, just the word Shakespeare has a teen running for the hills. These courageous teens, they were waiting outside for me to arrive. Either that or the ice-cream truck had just come ’round. Filled with quip and jest, these bubbly, vivacious kids helped me to carry the costumes and props inside the library. They patiently waited for me to get done with the educational part of the program. They answered some insightful questions such as What is something significant that has happened in the 21st Century?… Justin Bieber. More seriously, they knew the plot of Romeo and Juliet. They made the connection between Julius Caesar and present day rulers. They dove into sword fighting as though we still lived in the time of The Three Musketeers. If any of you Hollydale kids are reading this – I still want the answer as to whom you think will run against Obama in the next election! Then they acted out the scenes with such joy and humor and curiosity that their personalities and inventiveness burst forth like brilliant rays of sunshine. So I issue a challenge to anyone who has ever thought that teens are a difficult group to work with, that if you just respect them and give them an opportunity to shine, they will awe you with their radiance… or maybe the Hollydale kids as just unique.
If you know of a group of teens that would enjoy a Lady Lizzie show, a group of kids who are as curious and vivacious as those Hollydale kids, please put them or their librarian, their teacher, a parent in touch with me. I would love to perform a show for them and they deserve a chance to shine in a great Shakespeare play!