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The Thespian

To date, all of Simon’s summer camps from 2010 or so to the present have focused on things I knew he liked: nature, animals, tennis, soccer. This year also has a soccer and nature focus, with Simon going off to Jefferson Memorial Forest two weeks ago and spending two weeks hence in soccer clinics.

Then there’s Shakespeare Camp, which may sound like a needle scratch on the album of Simon’s life. And yet, I see signs that this camp, which covers acting, costuming, and stage-craft, could be great.* One sign is that while Simon cannot draw particularly well (he’s not progressed past primitive stick-figures), he does enjoy art when it’s presented to him in a non-threatening way. Painting abstract images with his friend Ruby years ago was always fun for him. And this year’s school art teacher found ways to get science-y kids to explore to their creative sides. (Thanks Ms. Martin!) Whether it was computer-generated art, pointillism, or paper mache insects, Simon was engaged in art in a way he usually isn’t.

Another sign is Simon’s interest in costuming. He was very engaged in his Hong Kong Phooey costume two years ago and Marvin the Martian this past year, and we’re already trying to figure out what might be fun for Halloween 2015. Plus, whenever he’s had reader theater at school—whether parents were invited to come watch or not—he has been eager to put together a costume. The kids likes to commit to his roles.

But the biggest sign to me that theater camp might be great is his willingness and ability to ham it up with me and Matt. And believe me, he’s figured out ways to enhance any given performance in service of manipulation. Just a few weeks ago he was fake upset about not getting to do something or other when I detected tears in the car. Even from the driver’s seat I could tell that the tears were real, yet manufactured if that makes sense. He wasn’t fake crying exactly, but his affect was slightly off from the real deal.

“Simon,” I asked. “Are you crying?”

“Yes,” he sniffled.

“Hm. I can tell, but it sounds a little off. I’m not totally convinced. Did you somehow make yourself cry?”

“Yeah, I figured out how to do it. I just give myself the forever thought**, and then I start crying.”

Yeah–that’s a kid who’s ready for drama camp I’d say.

I also think this camp could be good for Simon, who is a very well spoken introvert. He’s not shy, but crowds and new people can unnerve him. Despite this, I know he’s often the spokesperson for his grade-level on school tours. In other words, Simon doesn’t like making chit-chat with strangers, but he’s good when called upon to inform others.

I am not upset that Simon is an introvert, and I do not consider introversion to be a failing. Far from it, introverts can be great observers and listeners. But in an extroverted society like ours, being able to selectively socialize, speak in public, and generally project yourself when necessary, are valuable tools to have at your disposal. And since I think Simon is ready to start adding them, drama camp struck me as a great place to start.

*If you were wondering why I chose such an out-of-left field camp, it’s because I thought his best friend Caroline was going and I had a chance to snag it for 1/3 the list price at a school benefit auction. Turns out Caroline is at a different acting camp this summer, but we recruited a school friend Rayna to go. As long as he has a buddy, it should be OK. Plus, my niece Maddie will be there with the older kids and can send give him a passing high-five when needed.

** The “forever thought” is Simon’s own terminology for fretting about the permanence of death. Alongside the fact that the Earth will one day be consumed by the sun, it is Simon’s number one source of existential fear and dread. That he’s now harnessing this dread to wrangle Panera and ice cream out of me is simultaneously alarming and reassuring.

One Response to “The Thespian”

  1. goldsteinrita says:

    If he has already figured out these tactics at age eight, god help us all when he is a teenager.

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