Thanks to Melanie’s posts about teaching Shakespeare to children, I learned about the Shakespeare’s Globe On Screen series, in which performances from the Globe Theatre are broadcast in high definition at local movie theaters. Melanie has also compiled a list of which productions are available via DVD from Amazon; we are fortunate in the Houston area to have a couple of theaters that are showing this series.
I had the opportunity to see Mark Rylance’s production of Twelfth Night in New York this January while tagging along on a business trip with my husband. I was a little apprehensive about it, since my media consumption primarily consists of legal procedurals playing in the background while I build websites. My ticket was for the cheapest of the cheap seats; would I understand what was being said onstage? Would I follow the story? Would I survive the hour-long wait outside in the 23-degree weather, given that I am now acclimated to Texas winters? (It’s a frosty 52 degrees today – pulling out ALL THE SCARVES.)
It was a marvelous production, and I was reminded that if the actors are performing as they should, you can tell what’s happening in the story even if you don’t follow every word. More than that, the beauty of Shakespeare’s language is conveyed so much better onstage than when dissected in fifth period under flourescent classroom lights. (I know these are not ground-breaking epiphanies.)
It looks like I’ve already missed the Globe On Screen production of Twelfth Night, and I’m trying not to obsess about this missed opportunity. Audiences in the UK (and perhaps in other regions, as well) now can view this and other productions via the Globe Player app and website, and I’m hoping this will soon be available in the USA, as well. You can read more about the Globe’s new on-demand service at the Washington Post.
At first, I thought there weren’t going to be any showings in our area, but it turns out that the Globe On Screen website doesn’t always have all of the dates/locations. I happened to check the day before the showing of The Taming of the Shrew, and sure enough, there was a showing available. My husband and 10-year-old daughter went to that performance; my older son was at a birthday party and my youngest – well, I’m not sure a 6-year-old would really benefit from a three-hour performance, even with popcorn. They raved about the experience and I was intent on seeing another production in the series if I could swing it.
As luck would have it, the next showing was The Tempest. This was fortuitous because I’d signed up my older son and his friend to do a short dialogue from the play at the Texas Renaissance Festival School Days as part of the performing arts theater competition. (In our house, competition = external deadline that forces us to do the cool things we otherwise wouldn’t get around to doing.) I took the two boys and my daughter to the showing; my daughter and I sat together, and I let the boys pick their own spot. I was only slightly worried that they’d be caught up in peanut-gallery comments about the play instead of sitting with rapt attention as I’d hoped.
All of the kids loved it. I turned to psychically tell the boys, “THIS IS YOUR SCENE,” during Act 2, Scene 1 when Antonio and Sebastian plotted the murder of the King of Naples and his entourage. But they ignored my laser-beam-glare because they were fixed to the action onscreen. I was so glad that I took them!
It was an exponentially richer experience for them to see this fantastic performance of the play and then learn the scene themselves, rather than what I’d done the year before for the same competition. Last year, I assigned my son and another friend a dialogue from The Merchant of Venice and gave each one a No-Fear Shakespeare book. (I actually thought the book was quite beneficial, and we’d found some YouTube clips of the scene in question, but this was so much better.) (I realize Shakespeare purists are probably appalled that I used the No-Fear Shakespeare book, but it was a last-minute thing that consisted mostly of the boys practicing on Skype.) (Shakespeare purists probably also resent all these parentheses.)
I shall post no photographs of the boys’ performance, as I am now trying to adhere to the Mom, I’m Too Old to Be Blogged About Protocol, which seems like common courtesy once you have a TEENAGER IN THE HOUSE. But I was very pleased with how they brought the scene to life. I think they were a bit disappointed to not win, but they were up against almost 100 other pairs of kids, which is really a remarkable thing, isn’t it? Buses full of middle schoolers, all doing Shakespeare (and similar scenes) on a Tuesday in Texas? Besides, the point of entering the competition was to make us actually do the cool Shakespeare thing, instead of Mom perpetually planning and putting it off. Works every time.
It looks like there’s one more broadcast in the series this year – A Midsummer Night’s Dream, maybe showing on December 4 somewhere near you. If you’re in the Houston area, it is showing at the IMAX in Tomball and the Palladium in Richmond, at noon and then again at 7pm. We plan to be there! Tickets are $20 each, which is…quite a lot, especially if you’re taking more than one kiddo.
I wouldn’t recommend it for kids under 10; the showing of “The Tempest” had a few bawdy elements to it and it’s a long time to sit in a movie theater seat. My kid-survival policy for these events is you can go to the bathroom/to get water as many times as you’d like, within reason, as long as you are not disturbing the people around you. And, sadly, the theater was near-empty for the performances we’ve attended; I think they could do a much better job of publicizing these showings. I have good intentions of getting our homeschool group together for a showing, but you know what they say about good intentions…wait, is that from Shakespeare? (answer: no, but it would make a snappy ending to this blog post if it were.)