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.">
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
Lavish costumes, gorgeous sets, a full orchestra and a concession stand where nothing cost more than two bucks and you have a pitch perfect experience at the theater. Oh, and did I mention the ticket prices were just $10 dollars apiece? One could afford to take the whole family for a live theater experience for less than an evening at the Lego movie would cost including popcorn.
I think the first time in recent years that I've felt a real sense of shame, as both a parent and community member, was last Tuesday evening as I sat in a crowded elementary school LMC to listen to Ken Taylor, executive director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, and his colleague, Torry Wynn, present key findings from the 2013 Race to Equity report to our PTO group.
It's Wednesday morning at Allis Elementary School on Madison's east side, and 16 third-graders -- 10 boys and six girls -- enter into an open-space classroom in typical wiggly, giggly style. Some are making goofy faces at one another, some are bouncing around hand-in-hand with friends, and others are just trying to stay out of the whirling-dervish path of activity.
Of the 789 poorly-composed, way-too-dark and out-of-focus photos currently living on my iPhone, I can count on two hands the number that show my kids and me together. And my husband is in probably no more than three or four of those.
Something kind of magical has happened these past two weeks during the Sochi Olympics. There is no question, debate or disagreement on what will be watched on television once all homework is done. Everyone in the family makes time to sit down together to watch an hour of so of the primetime televised games.
Truth be told, though, this month I'm feeling a bit cinematically fried. In some ways, I already feel like I've spent the last week or so at a film festival. A festival specializing in minute-long glimpses of ordinary lives all ending with credits that feature the ubiquitous blue thumbs-up. Yes, it's been the February of the Facebook movie.
Just last week, on precisely the same day the Momastery post was getting over a million well-deserved views, Madison mom Suzanne Buchko was telling a similar story. Not on a blog but instead in the confines of the modestly circulated Franklin-Randall Elementary School weekly newsletter.
Late last month, the Madison Metropolitan School District adopted a five-year, $27.7 million technology plan calling for all district students, including those in the primary grades, to have significantly increased access to their very own tablet or notebook computer by 2019. Some parents, as well as education professionals, questioned whether elementary-aged kids, especially kindergarteners who aren't even able to read or write yet, will gain much benefit from introducing yet another screen into their lives.
This past Monday, had winter's unrelenting weather allowed, Middleton Cross Plains School District teacher Andrew Harris would have once again been at the helm of a classroom. After nearly four years of fighting his dismissal from Glacier Creek Middle School for viewing and passing on sexually explicit material on district computers, MCPSD has been legally forced to reinstate Herris, this time as a seventh-grade science teacher at Kromrey Middle School.
In a study published last week by the National Bureau of Economic Research, academics have found that the 16 and Pregnant series may have played a significant role in the recent decrease in U.S. teen pregnancies.
In our house, sad but true, we've rarely spent the Martin Luther King holiday discussing race, social justice or the power of non-violent civil disobedience. Instead, the third Monday in January has historically been treated as just another day off school, just another long weekend. And it's been a missed opportunity.
It's not something that happens very often, but last Friday, as news of the impending arctic cold snap reached our house, my kids were rooting for Governor Scott Walker. They were rooting for him to take Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton's lead and cancel school throughout the state. They couldn't care less if he had the authority to do such a thing -- if he called off school, he'd be their hero.
Late last semester, as students were packing up their backpacks one final time before winter break, Middleton High School principal Denise Herrmann and assistant principal Lisa Jondle were co-authoring a note home to parents informing them of a widespread cheating scandal involving nearly 250 calculus students at the school.
Breathe in, breathe out. Have you ever been in the heat of a parenting moment with these words ringing through your head? Then you're on the right path toward mindful parenting.
The week between Christmas and New Year's is famous for all sorts of things. Malls are packed with folks exchanging those holiday sweaters that don't fit just right. It's the week those same folks pledge to never again eat another frosted sugar cookie or candy cane (hence the sweater issues). It's also the week the media saturates the public with dozens of "Best of Year" lists.
This will not (although it could) be a treatise on the value of "alone time" for a healthy marriage, though. Nor will it be an ode to how nice it was for me to have a few days off from lunch-packing, carpool-driving and homework-nagging.
For those of you who haven't yet seen it, the eight-week-long transit campaign, placed both inside and on the outside of buses, features a photo of an orange tabby with a stainless steel bar drilled into its head accompanied by the line "I am not lab equipment. End UW cat experiments!" Just as PETA hopes, the image is shocking and demands an immediate response.
If I had my druthers, I'd sit out the entire shopping week that follows Thanksgiving. Black Friday, for starters, has corrupted the fine art of bargain shopping and turned it into a gladiator sport. There is no percentage off that is worth losing sleep, or even worse an eye, over. Especially if you have kids in tow.
When you shop for toys, there is always the conflict between what you think is appropriate/adorable and what the child being shopped for might actually want/play with.
Many of the pop-culture seasonal touchpoints of my youth are completely lost on my kids. You see, while I may have memorized every word to both the Snow Miser and the Heat Miser's songs from The Year Without a Santa Claus, I'm pretty sure the only Rankin-Bass stop-motion Christmas special my kids have ever seen has been Rudolph.