Sunday, August 5, 2012

Stumbing Upon Shakespeare

Do you remember learning Shakespeare?  Do you remember sitting in your desk, in rows, watching the teacher diagram the plot and characters on the chalkboard?  Do you remember reading the play at home every night desperately trying to hear the voices and visualize the scenery in your mind?  That is how I learned Shakespeare.  As a result, I never loved his work, nor quite frankly, understood it.  This is not the way to develop an passion for literature, or any subject for that matter.

To love Shakespeare is to live Shakespeare.  We stumbled upon Shakespeare this year. Most of our friends were participating in a local production of As You Like It.  I was not expecting the level of professionalism, the barely edited script, the costuming, the set, and the exquisite delivery that made these words come to life and take up residence in my soul.  Thus, our study and beginning of our love of Shakespeare, was born.  
Since As You Like It, my girls have come to know and love The Taming of the Shrew and Romeo and Juliet.  We have a multi-sensory approach to our learning.  We listen to the Jim Weiss audiobook if available.  We watch a movie version (preferably a BBC production), we watch what is available on Brain Pop, we take out picture books from the library, and we see the play.  By the time we are in the audience, we already know who the characters are.  We know if it is a comedy or a tragedy.  We know the plot.  What remains to be discovered is how the play will be interpreted. Will the setting be modern or classical?  Will the soundtrack feature music we are familiar with?  Will the director showcase talents of the actors?  How will the actors interpret their character?  Ah....the theater.  I never participated in it, but I sure do love it.
For months now we have been waiting for the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival’s production of Romeo and Juliet.  The backdrop for the open air theater is the stunning banks of the Hudson River.  West Point Academy is clearly visible across the river, set high on a hill.  It is the perfect place to enjoy a picnic dinner with friends.

It is here that we watched the actors bring this classic story to life.

During the ride home, the children had a mature discussion about the relationship of Romeo and Juliet, their wedding night, and how the scene with Romeo and Juliet in bed together made them feel uncomfortable.  We discussed the intense feelings of first love and how fickle it can be.  We reminded them that in this scene there were in fact husband and wife and therefore it was appropriate, although we did share in their discomfort and wondered how far the actors would go to show their love.  They debated marrying a person their age versus someone older who is more established and may be able to offer them stability and nobility.  Interesting.  Conversations like this never happened in my high school classroom.......
This is just the beginning of our adventure in literature. Unlike my experience, my girls exposure to Shakespeare will not last for one short semester. There will be more exciting adventures and stumble-upons to be had.  Rather than divulge them now, I will wait until the experience happens and share them then........
**For more photos of the performance visit Cath's page at Wholeschoolers!

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