An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

Monday, October 28, 2013

And he picked me

When I first entered the blogging world in 2007, there were a handful of people with whom I felt an instant connection, and over the years we've visited each other's blogs, left comments, and exchanged emails. One of those blogging friends is Laura, whose father recently passed away. And as a blogging friend I want to share this: In 2008 when I wrote a very personal post on how a Shakespearean actor once helped transform a terribly shy teenager, Laura left the following comment: As the daughter of a drama teacher (my dad taught classical acting for 40 plus years) this post thrills me. Thank you for sharing it. ~Laura
So, Laura, this one's for you, re-posted and revised. I know the Shakespearean actor in my story wasn't your Dad, but somehow it seems like he could have been ...

I was just a freshman in high school when my father retired from the military and decided to move our family to the Deep South. It was a difficult transition for me because in an environment where best friends are formed in kindergarten and social connections are woven through generations, I felt as if I didn't belong. We had just spent two wonderful years living in Italy, within the loving embrace of my Nonna, and I was now faced with trying to figure out how my Italian-ness fit into our new life on this side of the Atlantic. 

So. There I was. A new student, transferring to a new school one week before the Christmas holidays, and because classes were overfilled the guidance counselor stuck me in a drama class.

Me, painfully shy, in drama class. With 28 loud, enthusiastic students who had known each other since kindergarten. With a teacher who, when I entered his class with the note informing him that I was now student #29, complained that there wasn't room for me, but-what-can-you-do-go-find-a-seat-I-don't-care-where. Every single day I dreaded that class.

One Friday afternoon the drama teacher announced that a professional Shakespearean actor would be speaking to our class. I remembered feeling relieved because a guest speaker meant I could sit there, unnoticed and blissfully at peace. When the actor walked into the classroom all the girls sighed. He was tall, blond, and incredibly handsome. And he quoted Shakespeare.
It was enthralling listening to him. He had a deep voice which just pulled you in, but just when I was feeling that this was turning out to be a good day ... he asked for a volunteer. And just like that my heart stopped beating. Twenty-eight enthusiastic hands shot up into the air while I mentally pleaded, Please-please-please don't pick me. Please, not me. Don't pick me. Please.
The actor smiled as he looked around, then walked all the way to the back of the classroom and looked down at me. With a kind smile as if he knew how I was feeling, he took my hand and escorted me to a small stage in front of the classroom.

As part of his lesson, he wanted to demonstrate the importance of body language and asked the class to help stage/direct us. He had me sit with my back to him and then asked the class for suggestions on how he could get my attention without using words. Following directions from the students he walked around and knelt in front of me; he took me by the shoulders until I was forced to look up at him; he gently put his hand on my chin and turned my head to face him. Because I didn't have to speak, I slowly started to relax until, after a while, the class faded away and I was only aware of him.


At the end of the lesson he took my hand as I stepped down from the stage. He escorted me all the way back to my seat and kissed my hand as he thanked me. Everyone clapped.
To this day I still remember that moment. A handsome actor, teaching Shakespeare for one hour to some high school students, did a miraculous thing for a quiet, lonely, terribly shy teenager. He helped transform her from someone who was pleading, Please, please don't pick me, to someone who later walked out of that classroom thinking, He picked ME!


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