Posts Tagged ‘theater’

Shakespeare in the Park

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012


Last weekend we took our kids to see Shakespeare in the Park. This is an ideal way to introduce Shakespeare to children, because it is a casual environment that doesn’t require complete silence. Besides, kids can wiggle around on a blanket on the grass, changing positions, so even if your child has lots of energy, the child does not have to sit still. Shakespeare in the Park is usually free, so if you need to leave, you are not wasting any money.

On the way to the park, I told my children the plot of the story “Twelfth Night,” which was being performed that night. Twins are shipwrecked, and the girl thinks her twin brother has died. So she goes to work for the local duke. She dresses up as a boy in order to work for the duke, but she ends up falling in love with the duke. Meanwhile, the duke is in love with Olivia, who is in love with the duke’s page (who happens to be the girl dressed up as a boy). Suddenly the twin brother shows up and is mistaken for the sister who is dressed up as a boy. In the end, everyone is paired off and gets married. Yes, I told my kids that in Shakespeare’s comedies, there is always at least one love story, and couples always get married at the end. This is opposed to the tragedies, where lots of people are dead at the end. Yep. Comedy or tragedy. Married or dead. My kids laughed.

My kids seemed to follow their first Shakespeare play just fine. I told them they might not understand all the language, and just to pay attention to the plot. Also, I said that the language was similar to the King James version of the Bible. My 12-year-old son had no problem understanding the language, my two middle boys understood most of it, and my 7-year-old daughter said she couldn’t understand the words, but she enjoyed seeing the play. What a great kick-off to a full year of teaching Shakespeare to my children!

Related product: Romeo and Juliet Unit Study

Linked to Introducing Your Children to Shakespeare

“Wizard of Oz”

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

wizard-of-ozAfter my success at directing “Fiddler on the Roof,” I decided to direct another play the next year. I chose “Wizard of Oz,” since I enjoyed doing special effects the previous year. The school stage was under construction, so the headmaster told me that I could choose any stage I wanted, since the school was going to use this play for promotional purposes. I was basically given unlimited funds.

I envisioned a spectacular performance. However, since I only rented the professional stage for one week, so many things went awry. First I was suffering from horrible cramps and was doubled over on the floor the entire week. Plus, I had the pressure to top the performance from the previous year, which, as you know, was nearly impossible to do.

I kept ordering that the bales of straw be sent to the theater, and the theater guy kept sending them back, saying that they were not fireproof. I kept telling the guy that I would fireproof them at the theater, not at the school. I had to flirt with the maintenance guys to get them to do what I wanted, since there was so much work to be done.

The beautiful flowers that the art teacher had made for Munchkinland were droopy and miserable-looking after being fireproofed, and we had no time to make more, since this was the night before the first performance. I was heartbroken, because the art tewizard-of-oz-2acher was such an outstanding props maker. Her stuff was always a work of art. That was one talented woman, if I ever knew one.

I had no idea how I was going to change the canvas backdrops during the play, since my swinging on the rope with my skinny body didn’t even budge the thing. I frantically looked around for a man… any man. The husband of a fellow teacher actually volunteered on the night of the first performance. (My fiance, now husband, was back in the States at the time.)

When the curtain went up on opening night, the lights didn’t come on. Black. Nothing. The actors froze. The principal (and headmaster) of the school sat beside me, and I tried not to freak out. I calmly walked to the back of the auditorium to talk to my lights guy (a former student), who just shrugged at me. We finally figured out that the whole thing had been unplugged. (I knew who did it, too!)

The smoke machine stopped working halfway through the show, so I told the wicked witch to jump down the trap door without waiting for the smoke. The flashing lights coverewizard-of-oz-3d up the absence of smoke, so that actually looked okay.

By the time the play was over, I made a mental note to myself that I would never direct a play again. The whole week was somewhat nightmarish, although the kids were sweet. As always, my actors and actresses did well. Bummer, because I always wanted to do “Camelot.” Well, you never know…

“Fiddler on the Roof”

Friday, June 4th, 2010

fiddler-on-the-roofAfter living in England for my senior year of college, I loved England so much that I wished to spend the rest of my life there. As soon as I had two years of teaching experience in the United States, I applied to all seven American schools in England. One of the schools had an opening, so I interviewed for the job of an English teacher in London. They liked the fact that I was fluent in Spanish, since they were short on foreign language teachers, too. So I taught English literature, with one Spanish class thrown in. I also directed the middle school play.

I chose “Fiddler on the Roof” because I acted in that play when I was a child, so I was thoroughly familiar with it. I had to pay to rent the scripts (since we were in London, royalties had to be paid each time a play was produced), and my friend who was an art teacher helped me to dream up the scenes and costumes. We went to yard sales to find everything. Each set was absolutely perfect. Nothing looked fake.

I remember trying to keep quiet the fact that I was planning to use live fire during the wedding scene. I figured it would be bfiddler-on-the-roof-2etter to apologize than to ask permission, since the whole mood of the scene relied on the candles being walked down the aisle. It was an absolutely stunning scene. I never got in trouble for using live fire.

However, my poor ghosts nearly choked to death on the dry ice fumes in the cemetery scene. Some unknown person threw the dry ice into a huge pot of boiling water, and a column of smoke rose up only seconds before the curtain opened. My husband (who was just a friend back then) fixed the situation, and the scene ended up being flawless. The mother and father were standing to the side with a spotlight on them, holding a lantern, in their white pajamas and nightcaps. The scene looked beautiful.

I absolutely loved those kids. They acted their hearts out, and during the intermission, I walked into the dressing room, and you could hear a pin drop as they looked at mfiddler-on-the-roof-3e with wide eyes. I said, “That was… fantastic!” They all exploded into applause and danced around cheering. As far as I remember, not a single person missed their lines during the first half of the play. I was astounded at how good they were.

During the scene where the father disowns his daughter, I actually got a lump in my throat. They captured the emotion of that scene.

At the end of the play, when the audience gave me a standing ovation, it nearly made me dizzy. It was surreal. A real director from London congratulated me for editing the play well. He knew the scenes, he knew what I had cut, and he said I had done an expert job directing as well. I didn’t know what to say. It could have easily been a complete flop. We’re talking about kids. Anything can happen. The whole auditorium could have gone up in flames. But, no… God was good to me.fiddler-on-the-roof-4


Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010


When I was a student in England, I was able to get cheap theater tickets, and I mostly enjoyed watching Shakespeare plays. I argued to myself that one of my classes was Shakespeare, and what better way to study it than to watch as many plays as possible? I counted how many plays I saw in that one year, and I discovered that I had attended 12 plays. The cheap student seats were usually not very close to the front, but I could hear just fine, and the choreography was wonderful. My favorite place to watch plays was in Stratford, the home town of Shakespeare. Stratford-upon-Avon was only about 2 hours south of the university by train, so I often went there on a weekend, either alone or with friends. I also went with a group of international students whenever there was an opportunity.


The costumes were phenomenal, and the fact that they were speaking in a British accent made it more authentic for me. The sets were beautiful, too. I noticed every detail. Actually, watching a Shakespeare play can give you an overall feel for the play that you cannot get just by reading it. After all, it is a play, and it was written to be performed.

Shakespeare’s birthplace is presumably the house where Shakespeare was born and where he grew up. It is a half-timbered house. It looks quaint both inside and out. The kitchen includes an open fireplace with a pot, and the bedroom has a cradle where presumably Shakespeare was rocked. Anne Hathaway’s cottage (where Shakespeare’s wife lived when Shakespeare was in London) looks similar to Shakespeare’s birthplace, but the gardens are much more beautiful. It has a picket fence around it.


Holy Trinity Church in Stratford was beautiful, as most church buildings in England are. Each church is built in a cross shape facing the east where Jesus was born. The massive stone walls and beautiful stained glass windows bring about a feeling of awe as you enter. Most churches have a crypt where people are buried, and a lot of them let you go up the steeple to look down on the town. The river Avon winds around the town, and people take boats on the river. Stratford is quite picturesque, since many of the regular houses are thatched cottages. There are always good views when walking around Stratford.