I am not normally one to tempt fate. And lightning rarely strikes twice. But after a surprisingly successful all-family brush with the Bard at APT last summer, I signed my 11-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter up for Shakespeare camp this year. We weren't quite ready for the Young Shakespeare Players yet. The idea of full-length and uncut scared the bejesus out of me. Not so much because I didn't think the kids could hack it--I have heard amazing things about the program--but because I was dreading spending the better part of my summer running two sets of lines in incomprehensible (at least to me) Elizabethan English. I'm still paying the price for being the only English major known to man who managed to avoid a class on Shakespeare in college.
Fortunately we landed a spot in Richard Hamel's Shorewood Summer program---a kind of Royal Shakespeare Company for Rugrats. A veteran Madison Metropolitan School District elementary teacher, Hamel runs a three-week, two-hour-a-day camp each summer that culminates in the performance of a highly abridged work, using all original language.
And this year they were doing Macbeth.
Was he kidding me? How about getting their feet wet with a little A Midsummer Night's Dream? Or Romeo and Juliet? My kids have at least seen West Side Story. And they know enough about the Twilight vampires to wrap their heads around the concept of forbidden love.
But Macbeth? Weren't they a bit young to be tackling themes of unbridled ambition and regicide? Wouldn’t they rather be memorizing Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" than Lady Macbeth's "Out, damn'd spot! Out, I say!"
But my kids came home singing the praises of the program each and every afternoon. They learned the fine art of creative costuming and stage combat. They attempted Scottish accents that sounded suspiciously like Groundskeeper Willie from The Simpsons. And it's not every day that you get to discover that a cantaloupe splashed with red paint makes for a perfect "Macbeth's head on a stick" in the final scene.
But their daily joys could have never prepared me for the sheer pleasure of watching the final performances.
Trust me, Shakespearean tragedy in the hands of 4th through 7th graders can be far better characterized as The Comedy of Errors.
Every third cue was missed. A few of Lady Macbeth's lines were clearly improvised and may have been borrowed from an episode of Hannah Montana. The youthful Weird Sisters, sporting "pretty " vs. "scary" witch Halloween costumes, seemed far more Glinda than Wicked Witch of the West. It would not have been shocking if they had set the "Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble" lines to the tune of Popular.
And catastrophe, you will be glad to know, was narrowly averted during the cauldron scene. A word of advice, kids. Dry ice is nothing to be fooled around with.
Camp is now sadly over and both my kids are suffering from "post dramatic stress disorder""the after-cast-party letdown. And my son is afflicted quite badly. I'm not sure any of his other summer activities can top the high of playing the title role in one of the greatest works of English literature. Like Sir Laurence Olivier and Orson Welles before him, he got to proclaim to a (somewhat) rapt audience, "It is a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
Except that it signified everything. He now wants to become an actor. Do you think they have sleep-away camps in Stratford-upon-Avon?comments powered by Disqus
I've always been a supporter of companies that empower women and girls, and when the creator of such a company is a fellow Wisconsinite, I get even more excited. When Verona resident Melissa Wardy got fed up with stereotypes found in clothing for girls, she started her own company.
Do you have a little reader or an aspiring teenaged writer in your house? If so, you may want to venture to the Wisconsin Book Festival this weekend, to whet their appetite for wonderful words as well as your own.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband and I had two names picked out. Upon her arrival we had not yet come to a conclusion on what that name would be. Everyone told us that when we saw her we would just know. We didn't.
At age 10 months, my kids have seen the zoo a lot already. I was a zoology major in college, and I have something of a zoo addiction still, so the twins (and their dad) are more or less condemned to a future rife with zoo visits.
Home-schooling can be a lonely proposition. Even as a college professor, Juliana Hunt remembers struggling to find support to home-school her now-grown daughter. "I was always hoping to find like-minded people who were in the same position as me," she says. "I know that children learn best through a give-and-take, question-and-answer process of teaching and learning, but where do you find mentors who can make that happen?"
After sleep patterns, I think the next biggest parenting concern I have and hear about revolves around the topic of food. How can I make sure my kids are eating enough vegetables? Did I pack them a lunch that is healthy enough? What can I feed them after school that doesn't come from a box? How many gripes am I going to get about the dinner I'm about to prepare?
As far as places to embark on Baby's First Air Travel go, Dane County Regional Airport is a pretty sound choice, especially at 6 p.m. on a Saturday night. My biggest fear was that my nine-month-old son would start screaming in the airport; my second biggest fear was that my son would start screaming and some of my former Epic colleagues would be around to hear it.
The recent shift in the weather is just another sign that autumn is fast approaching. That means one of my favorite activities is just around the corner -- apple picking. My husband and I have been picking apples every fall since before our kids were born.
I have a lot of questions about what to put on my eight-month-olds' plates -- and, if I'm honest, a deep and abiding fear of putting the wrong thing there. Did I start them on solid foods at the right time? What's the deal with baby-led weaning -- how much self-feeding should they be doing? At what age should I give them potential allergens like shellfish or nut products?
Lily the potbellied pig arrived at Heartland Farm Sanctuary blind, lethargic and too overweight to walk. The children of Heartland's summer day camp program took it upon themselves to put the curl back in her tail.
Is it just me or does each summer seem to go by quicker than the last? The end of summer is upon us and for many families this means the start of a new school year.
This past week, on the way to the grocery store, my daughter asked what I believed she thought would be a innocuous question, "Mom, when are we going back-to-school shopping?"
Volunteering with the Young Writers Summer Camp this past week really helped me to remember how utterly creative kids can be when encouraged to come up with their own ideas and use their own words.
This past week I gleefully accepted an offer for new job on the UW-Madison campus. My kids are getting are older and I guess I've felt for a while now that it was time to figure out what would be next for me on the professional front.
"Kids spend so much time in and around school, it's the only place where some have a chance to develop an appreciation for a healthy lifestyle," says Katie Hensel, founder and executive director of Tri 4 Schools.
"I'm envious, mom," said my twelve-year-old daughter as she hopped in the car after theater camp last week. "All the other kids in my group seem to really like, and to be really good at, singing, dancing and acting. But I think all those things are just okay."
"People are looking to book space here all the time," says Remy Fernández-O'Brien, communications and facilities coordinator for the Lussier Community Education Center, a private, nonprofit community center on Madison's west side. "They want to throw their child's first birthday party here or hold a Girl Scout meeting. We're really busy year-round, but it's especially lively here in the summer."
Last week, in response to the county-wide Sleep Safe, Sleep Well public health campaign that encourages parents to "share the room, not the bed" with their sleeping infants, Isthmus contributor Ruth Conniff penned a lovely opinion piece in defense of bed sharing entitled "Confessions of a Co-Sleeper."
As much as I'd like to believe there is latent genius in my daughter's early finger paintings, I'm pretty sure her works are not distinguishable from those created by the pointer fingers and pinkies of thousands of other children from across the world.
Seeing Romeo and Juliet this past weekend was a definite reminder that I need to prepare for something that might resemble a (near) West Side Story around our place pretty soon.