Something unexpected is happening in my house. We are discovering William Shakespeare! Our discovery began by chance when we were invited to join friends at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival’s production of Romeo and Juliet this summer.
I have heard about this festival and am eager to attend. Wine and cheese, a picnic dinner spread out on the picturesque lawn.....it sounds lovely. Our front section tickets have been purchased and now we pray for good weather, and we begin our study of Shakespeare!
We listened to the Jim Weiss retelling of Romeo and Juliet on the way back and forth from coop. At first the girls were not so sure they were interested but quickly they became captivated by the plot, the characters and the tragic ending. We used Brain Pop to watch videos about William Shakespeare and different types of theatrical productions. We are continuing our study of this story by reading as many versions of the play as possible and watching this movie.
Many of our friends have been involved in a six month production of As You Like It. Every year this theater company, run by a homeschooling Mom and Dad, hold auditions, assign roles, and hold twice a week practices from October until the end of March. This was our first time attending a performance. Since I was not familiar with this play, we read E. Nesbit’s summary...twice. Greg read it also since he was attending this play as well. It became a family learning opportunity! We watched this BBC production starring a very young Helen Mirren. I never knew that this was the play from which the famous speech “All the world’s a stage. And all the men and women, merely players.” I love learning something new alongside my girls!
Saturday afternoon we attended the matinee performance of As You Like It. We certainly liked it. We knew the characters, the plot, the comedy. Watching our friends perform the roles of Celia, Jaques, Touchstone and more enabled us to connect to the story more personally that if we just attended a random production with actors we did not know. One thing that I have noticed with the homeshooling programs we have either attended or participated in, is how high the standards are set for these kids. Whether it is putting on a full length, unedited production of Shakespeare, or planning and executing a project for Destination Imagination, or participating in a woodworking coop class, these children give 100% of their being to the project they are involved in. When this happens, the results are spectacular.
Both my girls now want to participate in this theater company next year. I don’t know how I will do it since the play production coincides with the final DI push before the Tournament, but after watching these children, how can I say no? If my child wants to learn more about Shakespeare and connect to his words through the listening, speaking and interaction of other cast members, how can I refuse?
Our study of Shakespeare has really just begun. Romeo and Juliet is in August. We have a theater in our town with a magical history of Shakespeare performances. It has been closed for some time, but every summer there is a Shakespeare Festival on the banks of our own river where every night at Twilight actors speak famous words. This year we will attend. The Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport also has several Shakespeare performances in their pavilion. We have never attended before. This year we will.
This is very exciting to me. I did not discover Shakespeare until I was in high school when I read A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I read the book and enjoyed it but I never connected to the story the way my girls are. I am thrilled to give them this opportunity and see where it takes them.