April 12, 2016

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Poetry Friday: Shakespeare under the Stars

One of my favorite memories of summer: standing in line with friends at New York's Central Park, waiting for free Shakespeare tickets. It was hot, but companionable. The reward was coming back later in the evening for top-notch Shakespeare under the stars, produced by the Public Theater.

I saw Patrick Stewart dancing the conga as Prospero in a Caribbean-infused The Tempest. Christopher Walken played Iago to Raoul Julia's Othello (a review of that production is here).

My husband and I moved to central Maryland twelve years ago. In those years, a local Shakespeare troupe started up. We started taking the kids to Chesapeake Shakespeare Company's productions when my daughter was about six and my son was nine. We'd read a picture book version of the play, pack some snacks, and we were good to go. The kids followed the action just fine, thanks to fabulous acting.

CSC's summer home is the ruins of a Victorian girls' finishing school, The Patapsco Female Institute. There's no roof -- just add a stage and voila, Shakespeare under the stars. Going every summer is a family tradition. (You can read a piece I wrote about how much fun we have at CSC here.

A few years back, my daughter started doing camp with Chesapeake Shakespeare performers. It's one thing to be a drama kid -- Shakespeare theater kids are her people.

Miss J (left) and a camp-mate show off their stage-fighting skills.
Performing a monologue as Viola from Twelfth Night.
This summer, CSC's two plays are Romeo and Juliet and Pride and Prejudice. Be still my romantic heart! It's opening night for R&J tonight. I can't make it, but I'll be there -- picnic and bug spray in hand --  with the family on Sunday. (All Sunday performances are family-friendly. Kids 19 and under are free with a paying adult at *every* performance.)

My friend Jenny Leopold is directing Romeo and Juliet. I can't wait to see her poetry-focused interpretation, which includes elements of slam-style performance. The Queen Mab speech as a slam poem? Can't. Wait.

Sunday evening's performance opens with a Youth Spoken Word Festival. Three young performers will strut their verbal stuff before the show.

Back when I still lived in the New York suburbs, I taught ninth grade English. Romeo and Juliet was part of our curriculum. Every year, my students memorized the play's prologue, a sonnet that outlines the story to come. The poem is stuck is indelibly stuck in my brain.
Prologue (Romeo and Juliet)

Enjoy your Poetry Friday. May we all get to see Shakespeare under the stars this summer.

That delicious dish, Jama Rattigan, is our Poetry Friday host today. I'm sure she's cooked up some wonderful early-summer treats for all of us.


Tara said...

Shakespeare in the of the great joys of living near New York City. We saw Al Pacino there as Shylock...what a treat! And, years ago, Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline. The Marryland version sounds sublime as well...and how wonderful that your kiddo gets to catch the Bard's bug early on...fantastic!

Tabatha said...

What a wonderful family tradition! CSC productions always sound so great -- I wish they were closer. Our family saw an outdoor Midsummer Night's Dream in Staunton, VA and loved it. The actors were able to make clear what was going on, even to the youngest members of our family.

Renee LaTulippe said...

GAH! You just hit my gigantic nostalgia button for Shakespeare in the Park. A friend and I would always get in line at 7am, to be joined throughout the morning by dozens of other friends...followed by the whole day in Shakespeare's Garden and the performance at night. One of my absolute favorite memories of my years in NYC. Sniff.

Your kids are so very lucky to have the CSC and theater camp.

Doraine said...

What fun! I've only been to New York a couple of times in my life and they didn't include Shakespeare in the Park. I'd love to sit in your roofless theater and hear Queen Mab's in performance style. I know you are one proud mom. Enjoy!

Author Amok said...

Wow -- a lot of Central Park Shakespeare fans! Those productions are always amazing. Major acting talent.

Tabatha, I agree with you. Once the play is in motion, the language is carried along by the acting and the action. No need to fear! I wonder whether, in teaching Shakespeare to kids, we should have them experience live (or film) versions of a play FIRST, then study the text.

Renee -- absolutely, good times. We are very lucky to have this local troupe. They do a lot of outreach in the schools and are masterful at working with kids. Lots to love about this Shakespeare company.

jama said...

Oh, so envious of your Shakespeare in the Park experiences. It's something I've only heard/dreamed about.

Wonderful to hear about your daughter and the CSC. And I love that R&J prologue -- still remembering studying it in 9th grade and seeing the movie. Don't you think it's one of the most accessible Shakespeare plays for any age?

Ruth said...

Thanks for this! We LOVE going to Shakespeare in the Park. We've never been in New York but have been many times to Louisville, Kentucky and have also gone to other Shakespeare festivals. SO much fun. My kids love it, too.

Linda B said...

A long while ago, we took our children to the Bard festivals as given when we could find them. You're right, a little review of how the story goes & children can enjoy too. Your description made me envious. Maybe when my granddaughters get a little older? Also loved seeing your daughter reading as Viola. How great for her. Thank you.

Mary Lee said...

Lots of great Shakespeare memories for you! I love summer theater in the park!! (It is in Schiller Park in German Village for us Columbusites!)

GatheringBooks said...

Oh my gosh, I have a special spot in my heart for theatre. For some reason it just gets me in a way that no other art form does. I lovelovelove the way you described Shakespeare under the stars. You make it sound so vibrant and so organic and such a great deal of fun! Will be in New York in a week's time, so I can't wait to see the sights. Hopefully, I (or at least my ten year old daughter) get to snag a freebie too! :)

rena traxel said...

Every August there is a Fringe festival here and I just love all the different plays including Shakespeare in the park.

Author Amok said...

That sounds great, Rena. Where are you located?

We had a good time at the performance. My friend, poet Ann Bracken, met us. The young spoken word poets performed first. They did a great job -- all excellent performers.

I'd never seen R&J in performance before (just movies). Ann and I talked about Romeo's goofiness in the early acts. He's such an emotionally immature teenage boy! That aspect of his character really came across in this production.