Random Granddaughter Succumbs to Stage Fright

September 26, 2008

I don’t know where David’s post is that describes an experience on his road to crippling stage fright. I believe it took place while he was in high school or shortly thereafter.

I am sad to say that Random Granddaughter at the age of 4 also had a traumatic experience with stage fright. I don’t know if this will cripple her for life or not. I will be seeing her and taking care of her this afternoon and early evening, allowing her mommies to go to a large library book sale. This will provide me a chance to see how she is doing.

I will relate how this lamentable experience took place, and my role (over which I now feel quite guilty) in precipitating it.

A few weeks ago, when Mrs. Random and I were day sitting RG for a week, we took her to the library. I’ve described how she often picks out books that strike her adults as inappropriate in terms of age or subject matter, and how when she gets home she seems to have no idea why she picked out a particular book. I decided we should address this situation and introduce her to the phenomenon of literary criticism and book reviews.

We were in the children’s section of the library. I said to RG, “Sometimes you pick out books and then you don’t want them after we bring them home. How are you going to choose books you will actually want to read after you bring them home?”

RG replied, “I look at the pictures.” She then picked up a book and flipped through the pages to demonstrate to me.

I was not entirely reassured. I decided to supplement her choices with some choices of my own. As she began to gather books, I also began to gather books. I picked up several, but one book in particular struck me favorably: Brave Irene by William Steig.

After many years as a successful cartoonist for adults, Steig started a second career in his 60s as an author and artist working in children’s books. Among his many great successes was the book, Shrek, which formed the basis of a series of animated films.

When I read Brave Irene to RG, it was an immediate hit. Irene’s mother, a seamstress, sews a gorgeous gown for a Duchess to wear to a ball. Mom is sick, however, and unable to deliver the gown in time for the ball. Irene tucks her mother into bed, brings her some tea, and tells her she will deliver the gown through the snow storm which has just started.

The book tells how Irene struggles through the storm even though the wind rips the box containing the dress out of her hands and she falls into the snow. Bravely continuing even though she has sprained her ankle, Irene sees the lighted mansion, slides down the hill, finds the gown wrapped around a tree, and delivers the dress. The grateful duchess feeds Irene a splendid dinner. Irene then dances with impressive noblemen, who hold her as they swing her around to spare her sprained ankle.

The next morning a doctor accompanies Irene in a sleigh as she is delivered home to her worried mother with a note applauding what a wonderful girl she is which the mother thinks she knows better than anyone.

It’s a charming book combining inspiration about courage and determination with witty humor in subtle comments about class stratification in society.

RG was immediately charmed and asked me to read it to her twice. I then suggested she and I turn it into a dramatic performance for her mommies.

RG has considerable experience with drama. For example, in the incident of the improperly scalloped potatoes, as RG rushed to the bathroom to spit them out of her mouth, Mommy (RG’s birth mother) said as an aside to the other adults, “She’s such a drama queen.” A drama queen is better than a drama duchess, I will have you know.

RG and I rehearsed the play several times. In the rehearsal, she showed particular flair at performing the scene where Irene struggles against the wicked wind, loses the dress, and falls into the deep snow, spraining her ankle.

When the mommies returned from a walk, we began the matinee grand opening performance with the mommies and Grandma sitting on the couch as an audience. After the first scene, where RG tells her mother that she will deliver the gown to the duchess (Grandpa playing the mother not very convincingly), RG went into the hall to prepare for her journey into the storm.

Suddenly Random Granddaughter froze. A look of great distress appeared on her face. She said to me, “I don’t want to.” Words of encouragement from Mommy, Mama (Random Daughter), and Grandma were of no avail. At the age of four, RG had discovered stage fright.

I don’t know if like David she will be unable to participate in public performances ever again. I will see her this afternoon. I am bringing Brave Irene with me again. I don’t know if RG will want to get on the horse that threw her again. I won’t push the point; I will just have the book and let her decide what she wants to do with it, if anything. Growing up is hard work. I don’t know if adults appreciate what a difficult job it is.


5 Responses to “Random Granddaughter Succumbs to Stage Fright”

  1. David Says:

    As long as you didn’t tell her that you were ashamed she couldn’t go on, she should be fine. And I have no doubt that you didn’t tell her that.

  2. modestypress Says:

    Right and right. Nobody expressed any criticism or expectations to her at the original episode. When I saw her again, she evidently had no memory of the episode. I read her the story again. She still likes it. We went on to other things.

    I decided to hold off on holding the screen test for the Hollywood movie now in planning by the Walt Disney Corporation The Adventures of Random Granddaughter. Five years is old enough for her to go before the cameras and an audience of millions.

  3. pandemonic Says:

    I had a similar case of stage fright when I was in a kindergarten ballet recital. I had a terrible cold, and right at the most inopportune moment, decided that my throat was too sore to dance. And I cried, and cried. I thought my mother was going to kill me.

  4. modestypress Says:

    Actually, my poor sister D (#3 in the parade of Randoms) has a similar experience in the great play/ballet recital put on by my aunt Naomi (who owned and ran a ballet studio) and my narcissist grandmother Agnes. (I told this story somewhere, but I won’t look it up and link to it right now.)

    My brother B and my sister D were supposed to be tumbling elves and fairies. My brother tumbled fine, but my sister just stood there looking terrified. “Do your somersault!” my brother yelled at my frightened sister.

    “I can’t! My back hurts!” she whined.

    My aunt smoothly scooter them off the stage. I am probably the only one in the universe who remembers this episode.

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