Mama Madison: Date night at APT

Shakespeare, with and without kids

Nearly three years ago, my first Mama Madison post answered the question (for my family, at least) of whether or not you could take kids to see Shakespeare at American Players Theatre. My children, 13, 10 and eight at the time, were itching to see the original works that had inspired parodies on some of their favorite Simpsons episodes, and we decided to take the all-family plunge with an afternoon performance of As You Like It.

And they did, like it that is. So we ended up building on our Bard experience the next summer with viewings of both The Taming of the Shrew and The Tempest, followed by Twelfth Night last year. And after each performance the kids tried to get us to promise we'd bring them back again the next year.

But if there's one thing I've learned in parenting, it's never to make a promise.

And it's a good thing, too, because early this spring, way before I think I'd even gotten the APT schedule in the mail, a friend emailed to ask if I would like to join her and her spouse in Spring Green for an early season performance of Somerset Maugham's Too Many Husbands.

With just our husbands. No kids.

At first I couldn't imagine using our likely one and only (for time, energy and financial reasons)summer trek up the hill for a real live double date. APT, for us, had really become quite the family affair. But after about five minutes of consideration, I sent back an affirmative reply. With three kids in three different sets of activities, as well as other work, family and life obligations, my husband and I don't get the chance to go out alone as much as we'd like. This seemed like a ready-made opportunity for the grown up time we were both desperately craving.

I was, I'll admit, a little nervous as we headed out late that afternoon to meet our friends for the obligatory pre-performance picnic. My kids are old enough to stay alone without a baby sitter, but APT was kind of far away. And my experience has always been that cell phones don't seem to work in the outdoor amphitheater. But I played brave, pre-ordered their pizza, and made a very long list of every neighbor's phone number on the block to call in case of an emergency (real emergencies, I reminded my daughter -- the kind that involve broken limbs, fevers and blood. Not the kind that emerge when you and your brother can't agree on which episode of "Cake Boss" to watch).

Now, I really can't tell you whether or not I enjoyed the play -- we were rained (and thundered and lightninged) out after act one. But we had a fantastic time up until the deluge, enjoying wine, cheese and bread (mostly the wine) in the company of only adults. The four of us chatted and giggled in the way that can only happen when a fidgety offspring isn't asking how much longer until the play starts, complaining about mosquitoes or whining that her sibling spilled the only tangerine Izzy.

The very best part of the evening though may have been the 45-minute ride home with my husband -- me with mascara running down my face, my husband shirtless from getting completely soaked during our mad clamor down the hill. We listened to oldies and had the kind of inane but pleasurable discussions that we had far more regularly before we had kids. Things like, was the "Mony, Mony" we remembered from college the original or a remake? Or if anyone really knows what The Kingsmen are saying in "Louie, Louie"?

And when a medley of Styx songs came on the radio we realized that we had both slow danced many times to "Come Sail Away" during high school. But we'd never danced to it with each other.

No, we didn't pull over and dance in the rain on the side of the road. That kind of stuff only happens in movies and in the lyrics of the type of love songs that seem to populate oldies stations on Saturday nights. But we did hold hands and felt fortunate to be reminded of why we married each other in the first place.

And the best part of all, due to APT's rainout policy, we'll get the opportunity to head back up to Spring Green later this summer, hopefully in better weather this time, to finish up Too Many Husbands.

Which will give me another chance to be thankful for spending time with my just my one.

And don't worry about the kids. They got their summer Shakespeare in last weekend when we went to see Joss Whedon's film Much Ado About Nothing. They thought it was okay. But not nearly as good as The Avengers. And definitely not as good as seeing it live, under the stars, on the outdoor stage.

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