Shakespeare with a Pre-Teen (& a dab of Kitchen Chemistry)

fool squad

The warm-up Green Show–Idaho’s “Fool Squad” in its 20th year

The warm-up “Green Show” before last night’s production of Romeo & Juliet let slip a spoiler about the ending: Romeo & Juliet end up dead.  “Oops,” the Fool-Squad fool exclaimed. “If there’s anyone here who didn’t pass ninth grade English, we just ruined the surprise.” I had a laugh at that, given that I was sitting at the time between Keoni, who (though not born before Shakespeare, as he jokes) did go through high school before R&J was required reading, and Christian, who’s a couple years shy of reaching ninth grade.

romeo & juliet

Idaho Shakespeare Festival’s 36th season under the stars

Christian saw a few scenes of Hamlet at school a couple months ago, and came home chattering about the satisfying carnage at its end. His enthusiastic verdict: “They putteth on a good show!” Fueled by his interest, we got online to see what offerings would be found in this year’s season at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, and he expressed an interest in Romeo & Juliet. “Yeah, it’s a love story—but it’s also a tragedy, so that’ll be okay.” With the proceeds from an e-Book on vitamins I was writing that week, we purchased three tickets for the show.  (Elena Grace, at 8, is too young; Kapena, at 16, is uninterested. The two of them stayed home and had a movie night.)

tickets

picking up our tickets at Will [Shakespeare?] Call

Christian has always been an interesting challenge when it comes to matching him with reading material. He reads at a post-graduate level, but he’s still an eleven-year-old boy, with the interests (and aversions) attendant on that particular age. Along the same lines, he’s a kid who has no trouble following the flow of Shakespearian English (because he often thinks in that kind of language in his imagination, he told me), but whose pre-existing knowledge of the plot-line comes from Disney’s Gnomeo & Juliet (in which the cartoon-bust of Shakespeare holds forth on how the story is supposed to end)…

Shakespeare picnic

arrived early to picnic

Several times during the play when the lovers went into their monological rhapsodies on each other’s perfections, he rolled his eyes and jokingly mimed hitting an imaginary “fast-forward” button (eww, mush!)—although when Juliet dissolved into very real sobs upon hearing of Romeo’s banishment, he leaned over to whisper the solemn observation, “She’s good!” (I’ll be curious to see if he has any interest in the Drama Club, now that he’s heading into Junior High.)

He’s wise enough to follow not only the language, but also the humor—he leaned over after one of Mercutio’s bawdier riffs of sexual innuendo and confided cautiously, “I probably understand more of this than I should.” And I’m okay with that. Yes, Shakespeare should probably carry an “R” rating–but then, so should some conversations among eleven-year-old boys, as I know perfectly well.

enjoying Shakespeare

I forgot to “warn” him that Shakespeare had a NAUGHTY sense of humor!

Last night I had as much fun watching Christian watch the production as I did watching the show itself. And I did enjoy the show. One of the dangers, I think, in a too-well-known story, is forgetting that it’s full of very real moments of emotion. (Just as with clichés in language—when a phrase becomes too familiar, we forget to notice the cleverness or evocative power of a word-combination because it has become too familiar…) Juliet’s agonizing imagination of what might await her when she awakes in a tomb, for example, is nothing less than heart-wrenching (when performed well—as this was) and her determination to overcome those fears for the sake of the chance of a happy-ending… Wow.

stage

“All the world’s a stage…”

Christian didn’t have the tears on his cheeks that Keoni and I did at the end of the final scene, but he was fully absorbed. And (as always, with him) I got a kick out of his peculiar mix of kid-ness and adult-ness. At intermission he offered some insightful philosophical observations on the characters (in particular, drawing parallels between Friar Lawrence and myself) and then withdrew, turtle-like, into the depths of his oversized hoodie for “some alone-time with Dragon,” re-emerging briefly to announce with delight that he could see inside the sweatshirt because of the glow-in-the-dark jellyfish on his T-shirt.

I love this kid.

itch remedy

baking-soda paste for bug bites

Unfortunately, so do mosquitoes. The outdoor amphitheater by the river does come with a side-serving of bugs, and Christian woke this morning wondering if we had “anything for itches.” Not in the medicine cabinet, but… “Mom’s doing a Kitchen Chemistry series on her blog,” Keoni told him, “and I bet she can come up with something.”  A little research, and here we are: simple baking soda mixed with water to form a paste. Our victim guinea-pig reports that  his new itch-paste works just as well as “Dad’s pink stuff” (Calamine lotion), so I’m declaring this one a Kitchen Chemistry win!

Shakespeare tickets

a worthwhile extravagance!

Of course, the absence of “pink stuff” in our medicine cabinet is directly related to the general paucity of “green stuff” in our bank; it goes without saying that in the context of our uber-frugal budget, these three tickets were an extravagant expense.  But… so worthwhile!

Nor was it squandered on an unappreciative audience. Christian enjoyed having “his grownups” all to himself for an entire night. He asked if he could keep his ticket as a memento, and he buried his nose in the fifty-page program. He enjoyed Keoni’s picnic of chicken katsu and fresh strawberries and chocolate pie. He pointed out the first few stars becoming visible above the stage as dark dropped its blanket over the amphitheater. He chattered all the way home about the staging and the fighting and the characters and the plot and the Green Show jokes… And he is thoroughly pleased that the expedition arose from an interest HE had expressed. He was wired and wound up about Shakespeare—and his English-teacher-mommy was loving every minute of his enthusiasm.

I don’t yet know if we’ll be able to splurge twice this summer, but I’m keeping in mind that The Winter’s Tale is being staged in August—and that Christian wants to go. And that if we do manage to return, I’ll go prepared this time with some preventive Kitchen Chemistry in the form of some insect repellant! (Stay tuned—I’ll let you know what I find.)

summer solstice

Summer Solstice in the Sun

If a second Shakespeare-excursion doesn’t happen—well, that’s part of the Balance in our family life. A main contributing factor to the scarcity of “green stuff “was the decision (voted unanimously by the three kids) that having Mommy with them throughout the summer was preferable to having Mommy in the entrance-booth of the nearby State Park (last summer’s seasonal job, which I was offered again this year), even though Mommy-in-the-booth would have meant more resources-in-the-bank. When Christian observed at seven this evening that the weather was perfect for a walk to the lake, we were free to grab our towels without a second thought and stroll (past the unoccupied-by-Mom park-entrance-booth) to the beach, where the kiddos spent the last couple hours of this longest-day in the water and the sunshine.

Keoni and I were just reflecting that we’ll continue to enjoy whatever adventures and experiences do come our way. Writing the “Vitamins” e-Book not only paid for the Shakespeare tickets, but provided us with some informational resources for family health. When Elena Grace arrived this week with a mouth full of canker sores, we knew that those might be related to stress (their dad’s wedding last week?) OR might be due to vitamin deficiency. With the knowledge I’d gained in vitamin-research, we evaluated and switched the kids’ multi-vitamins. (Some things you don’t skimp on, even with a tight budget!)  And the Evening Out that was funded by the vitamin book led, in its own turn, to a little more Kitchen-Chemistry wisdom. As the kids say, “That’s how we roll!” Or, as Christian said this morning—stretched out beside me with a good book and no schedule-obligations marring the day ahead of us—“THIS is Summer, the way it should be. Family family family!” Even Shakespeare couldn’t top that wisdom.

About Kana

I am... a writer, an explorer, a coffee-drinker, a recovering addict, a barefoot linguist, a book-dragon ("bookworm" doesn't cover it), a raconteur, a minister, a sailboat skipper, a research diver, a tattooed scholar, a pirate, a poet, a spiritual adventurer, a photographer, a cartographer, a joyful wife, a mom (and Granny)... a list-maker! :) View all posts by Kana

20 responses to “Shakespeare with a Pre-Teen (& a dab of Kitchen Chemistry)

  • legionwriter

    What a great memory you created! Christian reminds me of my oldest. I wonder if I’ll be taking him to the theatre when he’s 11.

    • Kana Tyler

      I expect you will! It’s one of the Great Adventures of Parenthood, the fun of being able to share things WE love in life, and enjoy the heck out of watching the Kiddos fall in love too… :)

  • P. C. Zick

    Thanks for sharing. It brought back memories of turning my daughter onto the theater and Shakespeare. Wonderful memories were made.

  • charleymckelvy

    I love your approach to life! Carpe diem!

  • Let's CUT the Crap!

    Exposing children early to real theatre is awesome. What a lucky fellow Christian is to have a mom like you. Two thumbs up.

  • Widdershins

    I used to think Romeo and Juliet was so silly when I was a kid. “Why didn’t they just TALK to each other?” It wasn’t until I was old enough to appreciate the beauty of the language (and saw a really good performance) that I ‘got’ the Bard

    • Kana Tyler

      You know, that’s one of my objections to Idaho’s English curriculum, and the required reading of R&J by 9th graders… It’s not that kids can’t GET Shakespeare at that age, but that these plays weren’t MEANT to be experienced as reading material. A great production (as you say) can make all the difference in both understanding and enjoyment—but right now we have a whole generation of kids who have been turned OFF of Shakespeare by their English classes. (I was part of a review committee for the state’s curriculum a few years back, but my objections to this approach got overruled. Sigh. I tried! ;)

  • Judy

    Your children will never forget these moments. And I love reading about them:) May the Lord provide enough green stuff for the important stuff!
    Judy

    • Kana Tyler

      He DOES, over and over! If there’s one thing we’ve learned in the last few years, it’s that God’s got our backs! :)

  • Miranda Gargasz

    Kana, if only we lived closer! My oldest son and your Christian seem like kindred spirits. How do you find things that interest him at his reading level? Jimmy is also eleven with a college reading level and finding appropriate material for that level is such a challenge.

    • Kana Tyler

      Parallel lives, you and I! :) There’s plenty of trial-and-error regarding the reading list, but my favorite approach (i.e. the most fun) is putting my own reading to work as a “scouting” expedition, and sharing with him the books he might also enjoy. Lots of dragon-and-ocean topics, and of course “love stuff” is likely to disqualify a book as “interesting” to him… I also put out a call for suggestions in this blog-space a few months ago (http://kanatyler.com/2011/12/08/looking-for-ya-reading-recommendations/) and got some GREAT responses—this blogging community is such a terrific resource of READERS! :)

  • jannatwrites

    Glad you got to splurge and see the production. I hope you’ll get to to the other one later this summer, too.

  • evilnymphstuff

    Omg I would have loved to go and watch some Shakespeare like this!
    Great post! You sure had a great time ^^

  • whiteladyinthehood

    What a wonderful post! Your son sounds amazing. (and like the tip about the baking soda paste!)

  • Ileandra Young

    Your son sounds like an awesome chap – in fact all of your young ones do – and its great he has an interest in Shakespeare so soon.
    I also love the fact your being at home is working out so well despite the difficulties with the green stuff. Its inspiring to read about how resourceful one can be if the need arises.

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