Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Velveteen Rabbit

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you.  When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

We attended a gentle staging of The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams at The New Victory Theater on Friday. There was a great deal of excitement and anticipation as we waited for the curtain to rise.

One student asked, "Is Joanna Glushak in the show?"

"No, she isn't" I responded.

Ever hopeful he came back with, "Gregory Jbara?"

One of these days it would be incredible to bring the class to see one of our Broadway Books First Class performers in action.  Alas, that day was not Friday.

The Velveteen Rabbit in this production is a man in a jacket.  The whiskers and ears live in the imagination of the children.  The actor portrayed the Velveteen Rabbit with quiet amazement, blinking slowly to adjust to his surroundings or contemplate concepts rather difficult for a stuffed rabbit to comprehend. The effect was very charming.

At one point the character of the little boy is getting ready for bed and asks for his rabbit.  The floppy rabbit lies beside the boy, shoved to the foot of the bed sometimes or squished beneath the covers at others.  At one point during the night the boy puts his arm around his beloved rabbit and it was disheartening to hear a few children behind me calling out, "Ewww, boys don't sleep with boys!"

Obviously the magic of theater with its willing suspension of disbelief didn't hold sway over them (it was a little boy and his stuffed animal!) but more importantly, it provided sad commentary on some larger issues.  Society may have progressed in accepting diversity and promoting tolerance but these young boys didn't seem to know that.  If I were their teacher I would have brought this conversation back into the classroom.  I wonder if that happened.

I guess the words of the Skin Horse apply in relation to societal change as well...
It doesn't happen all at once.  You become.  It takes a long time.  That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.  

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