By Eilene Lyon
The “From the Vault” series features an artifact or family photo from my collection to illustrate a tale from my distant past.
In 1976 my school, the American School of Guatemala, participated in an international high school drama arts festival in Managua, Nicaragua. We took a bus trip through part of Central America to reach the host city. There, we were parceled out to various households for the weekend.
I have only a couple vivid memories of the festival. One is a play based on Shirley Jackson’s story “The Lottery.” Crumpled balls of notebook paper littered the stage, standing in for stones. The other: it was so hot that when we bought ice cream treats, half our Fudgsicles would melt and blow away in the blast-furnace wind before we could eat them.
Really, I don’t even recall much about my performance in the Oral Interpretation contest, for which I received this second place trophy. Only five or six students competed in this event, so it doesn’t mean I was outstanding in any way.
The contest rules did not require us to memorize our piece, but my drama instructor insisted on it. Oral interpretation involved using both voice and body language to bring the written word to life.
I selected a poem titled “What Is A Boy?” from an anthology we had at home. (There was also a companion poem, “What Is A Girl?” and yes, both were chock full of gender stereotypes.)
Once I had memorized the poem, the teacher had me rehearse by performing for other classes. I was a freshman, and one day she scheduled me to recite for a senior class. My older brother was in the class, and a boy who played lead guitar in his band, whom I had a big crush on.
“What is a boy…” I began with confidence, having done this several times already. Then about halfway through, my mind went completely Blank……. Blank…….. Blank……….. Then filled with a sense of dread.
Suddenly, I blurted out, “Oh Shit!!” My face a blooming rose as my gaff dawned on me.
After a moment of stunned silence, the class gave me a big round of applause. I then recalled the rest of the poem and finished with a big bow.