Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 8 to 14
- Grade: 3 to 9
Reenie wants to dance, following in her mother’s footsteps. Just like the rest of her ensemble, she believes she has what it takes to earn the coveted solo at the year-end recital. But when she notices that their strict maestra is not holding everyone to the same “traditional” standard—particularly Maia, the other Black girl in the class—Reenie is determined to stop her friend from being counted out of the competition. Frustrated with not being understood by her mother and filled with a new-found passion to fight a broken system, Reenie hatches a plan with her classmates but doesn’t realize where her quick journey towards justice missed the mark with her friend.
Reaching for Starlight is a compassionate story about the way we are told to move through a world not made for us, whether together or alone.
About the author
Donna-Michelle St. Bernard (aka Belladonna the Blest) is an emcee, playwright, and agitator. Works for the stage include Reaching for Starlight, Cake, Sound of the Beast, A Man A Fish, They Say He Fell, Salome's Clothes, Gas Girls, Give It Up, The Smell of Horses, and The First Stone. She is co-editor with Yvette Nolan of the Playwrights Canada Press anthologies Refractions: Solo and Refractions: Scenes, and editor of Indian Act: Residential School Plays. DM is the creator of the 54ology and artistic director of New Harlem Productions.
Excerpt: Reaching for Starlight (by (author) Donna-Michelle St. Bernard)
(LIL and REENIE at home.
REENIE sits in lotus position, trying to cross every single part of her for good luck: fingers, toes, arms, legs, eyes. Shestrains audibly. LIL enters.)
LIL What are you doing?
REENIE Hope, hope, hoping Maestra gives me the lead in the Firebird.
LIL I was hoping you'd do the dishes last night. See where hope got me?
REENIE Um, hope is only one of my many strategies.
LIL Oh yeah? What else you got?
REENIE As if you don’t see me working on my arabesque while I brush my teeth.
LIL I see you.
REENIE Well then?
LIL Imagine how good you’d be if you moved practise up from a side dish to the main course. You too good to try your best? What are you doing to move yourself out of the trenches and into the spotlight?
REENIE I dunno. It’s dance, not math. Maestra already said that if I keep acting up I‘m out of the running for lead. And I don't know if my sneezing fit counts against me - which I was NOT faking to get a laugh.
LIL Your sneeze is pretty hilarious.
REENIE I can't control what other people laugh at! Anyway, if that's acting up, then I might not get it, but I don't know if it is.
LIL Have you thought of asking?
REENIE Right, Mom. I'll just interrupt to ask if I'm on notice for interrupting.
LIL Okay, obviously you can’t speak in class. But you know, there's always at least ...
REENIE ...at least three possible solutions to every problem.
LIL And you always have / choices.
REENIE You always have choices. Yeah. Such as?
LIL You could wait for the right moment to talk to her.
REENIE And die waiting? Pass.
LIL Or you could create the right moment.
REENIE What am I, a timelord?
LIL Or you could skip the drama and focus on your dancing.
(REENIE gives LIL the saltiest side-eye)
LIL So what are you doing about it?
REENIE Hello?! I'm hoping my butt off! I know I can play this part.
LIL Well there's your problem. You're still trying to play the Firebird. What you need to do is become the firebird.
REENIE Yeah, okay. I'll do that.
LIL No, you need to make Maestra see that you already are the firebird.
REENIE Cool. So I'm thinking I'll spontaneously combust next week. Is that what you had in mind?
LIL Aha. It becomes apparent that Maestra is not the problem here. How do you expect to convince her when you’re not convinced?
LIL Come on. Tell me one way you were amazing today.
REENIE I’m not in the mood.
LIL Then you’d better tell me two.
REENIE Fine. Today I ... parted my hair with perfect symmetry, all by myself. And I apologized to Karyn, even though she didn’t ask me to, and even though we were both equally wrong, although if you think about it, she was a little more wrong than me.
LIL Amazing! Now, let’s see that ronde de jambe. Who’s the righteous protector of the earth?
(REENIE goes through part of the routine, strengthening as she gains confidence)
LIL Sho’ nuff! Who's gonna light it up at that recital?
REENIE Me, I guess.
(REENIE’s into a series of pirouettes now)
LIL Who's the firebird?
REENIE I am.
LIL Who's the firebird?
REENIE I am.
LIL Who's the firebird?!
REENIE I am!
LIL Yeah, you are. Go on, girl. Get it.
“Reaching for Starlight is a powerful reminder of the ways in which young people are capable of so much revolutionary work; how they are motivated to face adversity, stand together, and advocate for genuine, lasting change.”