Princess and the Arachnid

There’s a phrase they use in theater that I’ve always found fascinating – “playing against type.” It’s when an actor, who is known for their roles in one kind of part, plays the opposite. Like when Robin Williams dropped the wackiness and played a doctor in Awakenings.

I’m trying to keep this phrase in mind now that Mireya has her first speaking part in the school play.

First, let me say, that anyone who decides to have a play with sixty first graders deserves some sort of medal of honor - after they return from a long trip to the Bahamas. I’m still amazed that they get that many children through the lunch line in school, let alone through stage direction in the auditorium.

But I was shocked when Mireya came home with her role. She had been completely confident that she’d have a speaking part, due largely to the fact that she can read.

So I was anticipating something interesting, but not too demanding.

Mireya is the spider.

My shock had nothing to do with the role. In fact, the role of the spider isn’t a bad role at all. From what I gleaned, her character undergoes a transformation from bad to good. And many great actresses excel as villains. Plus she is going to have the coolest costume ever, thanks to Grammy and a few black socks.

No, it was the enormous irony of the role. Mireya is terrified of spiders.

Run-screaming-from-the-room-from-even-microscopic-spiders terrified.

Yet now she’s going to be a GIGANTIC spider (as spiders go).

“Wow. You’re going to be the spider?”

“Yes.” She looked at the script a bit skeptically, as if it might grow legs right in front of her.

“That’s really great! You think this will help you not be afraid of spiders anymore? I mean, you’ll kind of have to get in touch with your… inner spider.”

She looked at me as if I’d lapsed into Swahili. “Um, no, mommy.”

“Oh. Okay.”

A few days later following her costume fitting, she made it clear she’d gotten more excited about her part.

“You know what is so cool about my part in the play?” she said.


“I have more arms than anybody!”

Which begs the question: do you tell a 1st grade spider to break one leg before the big night, or two?

(Mireya after her successful debute)