Léna is also a Regional Manager for Writopia Lab whose mission is to foster joy, literacy, and critical thinking in kids and teens from all backgrounds through creative writing.

"Well, the question is, what do you want to believe? Do you want to live in a world where things are possible, or in one where they aren't?" Cin, Edges.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Comedy of Errors, Madeleine L'Engle, and my mom

Photo of the first page of The Comedy of Error...Image via Wikipedia
I to the world am like a drop of water
That in the ocean seeks another drop,
Who, falling there to find his fellow forth,
Unseen, inquisitive, confounds himself.

So sayeth Antipholus of Syracuse, upon searching for his lost twin brother in Ephesus.

Last week the husband and I took our three kids, ages 6, 9, and 11, to see their first unabridged version of a Shakespeare comedy across the river on the grounds of Boscobel at Hudson Valley Shakespeare.

My Gran would approve wholeheartedly. I think that I was seven when I had my first brush with Shakespeare at a theater with her, my sister and my mom in Stratford . . . Connecticut. Shakespeare,  Madeleine L'Engle and my mother are inextricably linked for me, fostering my love of theater and of words, language.

("Let's read Twelfth Night," Gran would say to my pre-pubescent self, with an impish wink, and my sister and I would climb into her four poster bed while we played the straight men (and women) to her fools. I will never forget her portrayal of Sir Anthony Aguecheek!)

We were all a bit giddy, having been without power for over 72 hours and then having it restored that afternoon. The night before, I had read the Mary and Charles Lamb abridges story from the late 1800's by candlelight, happy that the boys' stomach's were aching from laughing so much. Scarlett furrowed her brow a lot, but at six, that's to be expected.

We took a picnic, and arranged to meet friends overlooking the Hudson River before theater under a tent. Afterward, we found our seats underneath the tent and waited, holding our breath . . .

. . . we weren't disappointed. We were enchanted, captivated. Ephesus, the setting for the tale, was depicted as a freak show carnival. The brothers Antipholus were the straight men, whilst the roles of the other brothers, Dromio, were played by women in humpty dumpty suits, and the sisters Adriana and Luciana were respectively a bearded lady and a mermaid. There was even singing in iambic pentameter, and the Duke was played by a scallywag in a leopard print suit who delivered his lines like Elvis.

I to the world am like a drop of water . . . isn't there a profound universality in those words? Seeing this live performance was like a coming home again, a remembrance of something I loved that I can experience again with new eyes and a new heart.

In my teens I did a Shakespeare summer program at the A.C.T. in San Francisco and then later at The Royal Academy in London. (I was in a gender bender production of Troilis and Cressida playing Troilus to an Australian soap star's Cressida, but that, as Kipling said, is another story.)

I am thrilled that the kids are old enough now to share this with them. I haven't seen a Shakespeare play since having them, but I know now that I will see many more. It sparked their interest so much that they couldn't stop talking about it. In fact, the next night we visited my mom, who held them captive synopsizing many other of the plays for the kids, and Scarlett didn't want to miss a word.

"Don't talk about Shakespeare until I come back!" She yelled whenever she ran to the bathroom.

A new generation of fans has been born. Special thanks to Hudson Valley Shakespeare, Madeleine L'Engle, and last but not least to my beautiful mother, Josephine Jones, a true Shakespeare connoisseur, patron of the arts and supporter of all the important stuff!
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  1. What pictures you just painted! Lovely. The first Shakespeare play I took my girls to was King Lear at the local college. The younger kept leaning over asking me what was happening, so I figured the experience might be a bust, but instead they both loved it. Then Midsummer Night's Dream this spring...magical. In college I had the joy of seeing As You Like It at Stratford-upon-Avon, what an amazing first-time Shakespeare experience that was. Great post, Lena.

  2. Thank you Amanda! I LOVE Midsummer and As You Like It and have seen several productions. Confession: I have NEVER seen King Lear, although I have read it several times and acted in "scenes".

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