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>Being It

>I’ve been taking this singing class–oh, let’s just get it all the gay out there and say I’ve been taking this cabaret singing class, and at each session we begin with vocal warm-ups and some kind of improvisational exercise. Last night one of the members, a teacher, suggested a game of assassin, saying she played it with her students. The Wikipedia description linked above seems far more elaborate than what we played, which involved sitting in a circle with our eyes closed, and somebody tapping selected members on the head to designate them as assassins or victims. Then we would open our eyes and–well, I still can’t figure out what was going on, with people asking each other random questions about daylight savings time until somebody either fell over in a dramatic “death” or somebody pointed a finger at somebody else saying “You’re the assassin!” I felt like a visitor from another planet, as everyone else seemed to get right into the spirit of things while I sat clueless and In Hell. Can anyone explain?

I guess kids smarter than I could have a great time with this, but I kept thinking about what a handy vehicle it could be for playground victimization. (All together, sing: “Memories / light the corners of my mind . . . .”) Better even than dodgeball, because Assassin seems to offer far more interesting opportunities for psychological torture. I guess any game that involves someone being it has that potential.

On a book-related note (heh), I was able to help another student who has a young child living temporarily in the Philippines and was trying to solve the problem of intercontinental bedtime stories. I suggested using the International Children’s Digital Library, where electronic editions of books from around the world can be read in a variety of ways. I didn’t know if it could work synchronously, but Jeff told me that he and his kid were able to log on at the same time and turn the pages together while talking on the phone. (I guess that should really be “turn” the “pages” “together.”) All very Jetsons, yes?

One last thing: being in that class reminds me what a salutary experience it is for those of us who teach to be the student once in a while. You can forget how things look from that end.

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. Doug Orlyk says:

    >I’ve done a few cabaret shows here in Chicago, and I had occasion to sing at Don’t Tell Mama in NYC one lovely Open Mic Night. But I digress…

    I’m intrigued that you were playing the assassin game. When I was teaching, I would play the game with my drama students as a way to help them concentrate and/or remember important ideas. I don’t see its relevance to singing, even as some kind of mental warm-up. Bizarre. The image of you sitting there, mouth agape, looking around at a bunch of goofs playing this game… hilarious.

    Keep that memory, and use it the next time you croon “Send in the Clowns.”

  2. Kelly Fineman says:

    >I have no clue how, or why, a game of assassin would have anything to do with cabaret, but I suppose it was meant to be a bonding experience. Although one where the object is to isolate victims and kill them off.

    Thanks for the “all the gay out there” line, which forced me to clean my screen after an unfortunate spit-take.

  3. Roger Sutton says:

    >Wow, a voice from Chicago cabaret. Here’s (again) how old I am: I remember seeing the then unknown Karen Mason with the late Brian Lasser at His ‘n Hers.

    But you still haven’t told us how to play the game.

  4. Anonymous says:

    >I much prefer the “Mafia” variation — in which the killers do their work at “night” while everybody “sleeps” — because there’s much more room for analysis and argumentation. But the essense of both games is that the innocent try to identify the guilty before the guilty kill them either directly or via rhetorical railroading which, developmentally, they become very good at around age twelve.

  5. Doug Orlyk says:

    >Ahh, Karen Mason… her sister Kim is a good friend of mine.

    See this link for my a close description to my recollection of “Assassin.” Roger, I am confounded by the whole “daylight savings” element in your group’s game. Sounds like an interesting bunch.

  6. >Who said “Memories/ like the corners when you’re blind . . .”? Was it from a movie? Ah well, anyway . . . that’s more like most childhood memories involving “it” games.

    Jules, also cleaning off her computer screen from spit-taking for the same reason

  7. Anonymous says:

    >The comparable Barbra was, I believe, responsible for that movie song. Because I acutlaly have the sheet music for it somewhere (alert! alert!), I must point out that the memories are lighting the corners of the singer’s mind….though blindness would offer an amusing twist to the whole thing.

  8. Anonymous says:

    >INcomparable! Incomparable!

    Sorry, that was NOT a Freudian slip.

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