We were working on Hamlet in their English class.
The students chose scenes to work on but there was some fall-out, as the groups had varying levels of commitment and interest. One girl found herself surrounded by entirely disinterested scene partners.
So we suggested a soliloquy for her and she chose this one. She dove right into it and we saw a transformation almost immediately. That’s when her teacher told me that this student had struggled with depression that year.
And it’s funny, if I’d KNOWN that, I wouldn’t have suggested this speech. I’d be afraid it would be too close to home. But, in a peculiar way, by engaging with these ideas, she seemed to emerge from a fog.
Is it the comfort of knowing you’re not alone?
Is it the ability to say something to everyone that you couldn’t say yourself, that would worry everyone if you said it out loud? To say something that can feel draped in shame? To say it and say it loud and then get applause for it instead of concerned looks?
I cannot begin to know what was going on in that student but whatever it was, it felt like a testament to the power of theatre, to the power of these words.
At the final presentation, I wept all the way through her performance, even though it wasn’t the least bit sentimental. It was direct. It was matter of fact. Like someone who’s been to the wars and is here to report it back to us.