Lord help me, do not send me eight-year-olds. I did not come into this having to deal with the politics of eight-year-olds. I just wanted to teach them cool tricks they could do with their own body, like how to hop from one place to another like they’re crossing a creek.
The Gruffalo’s Child has six parts. I needed parts for nine kids. So invented a few more parts — I made the tallest kid be the Mouse’s Shadow, I had another kid help me narrate, and lastly, I split the part of the Gruffalo into two parts — the Gruffalo, and the Gruffalo’s Wife. I did not think this would be a problem. The Gruffalo has a lot of lines. By splitting them into two, there would be less work for all involved.
It didn’t occur to me that, by casting two kids as the Gruffalo and the Gruffalo’s Wife, I was making them married and that is so super gross. The word “cooties” wasn’t said but they made their presence known. I had to find ways to keep them separated. Their “daughter” stood between them whenever possible. They spend most of the play asleep on the ground, and I had to assure them three times that no, they were just sleeping, they weren’t cuddling, don’t worry, you don’t have to touch each other.
Speaking of their “daughter”, I had trouble getting the Gruffalo’s Child to come out from under a desk. I sat with her and asked her questions, wondering if she had stage fright. I finally got a reason out of her — she was afraid the Fox would make fun of her. Why the Fox, of all people, considering that she doesn’t interact with any of the kids, really. Part of the reason why I made her the star was because I knew she could speak, but she never really talked. She tended to hang back, separate from the rest of the group. The kid who plays the Fox isn’t even the most rambunctious of the group. That would be the Gruffalo or the Owl. Why would she be afraid of the Fox in particular?
After rehearsal, she again hid under a desk. I asked her, and she again said that she was afraid the Fox would make fun of her.
I had the group play Sneaky Statues* to eat up time and encourage them to be quiet. She seemed fine for that. Then class ended. She gathered up her stuff, then looked around.
“Where’s [the Fox]?” she asked. “Where is he?”
Then it clicked. The Gruffalo’s Child has a precocious crush on the Fox. I have no idea what to do with this information. I also know that if she keeps up this behavior — hiding under tables in between rehearsals and then having to get coaxed out — then I’m going to need to find a new Gruffalo’s Child. And I don’t know how to break that gently.
*Sneaky Statues is a game where the players freeze in place while the “curator” or “guard” or “janitor” walks around them. When the janitor has her back to them, the statues have to move. If the janitor catches them moving, they are out of the game. Last person still a statue wins and becomes the next janitor. I like the game because it’s simple, physical, runs itself, and the kids tend to be quieter during the game. I dislike the game because, especially with small children, they tend to whine about getting eliminated, and you have to entertain the kids who have been eliminated. Eight is about the youngest age you can play with and keep your sanity.