Baby’s first Shakespeare

I’d always planned to be one of those culturally literate urban moms who took her kid to see and be part of all the City has to offer. Which is why I’m ashamed to say that my son C saw his very first Shakespeare play this weekend. I could’ve taken him to sock puppet presentations of Midsummer somewhere in Park Slope, but no, I never did. In fact, we don’t even go to theatre regularly.

I read an article or maybe it was a tweet a few years ago from a guy who was moving his family to Jersey or someplace beyond the bubble of bridges and tunnels bc he and his wife, despite their best intentions, were not taking advantage of the City’s cultural offerings. They found they were living a life worthy of suburbia, but at New York City prices. No way, I said to myself. I will not be that mom and dad who find life w kids so overwhelming that we stay in our pocket of the City and never venture out.

Even so, baby’s first Shakespeare was this past weekend, and baby is now 8 yrs old. Boomerang Theatre’s production of Twelfth Night, in a dusty patch of ground in Central Park, was a better entry than many. In fact, it was great. I’d planned to go a while back, when actress Sevrin Anne Mason handed me a flier after the last NY Madness, and I did that thing one always does when handed a flier for a play, I said “oh cool, I’ll try to make it out.” But then I did a thing I never do, I turned to my friends and said “I can go July 14th, how about you?” We actually all wrote it down in our calendars— or maybe I was the only one who wrote it bc I fell in love w my Hobonichi planner— and then, in a shocking turn of events, we actually all went to the show.

I don’t know how it works in other place that are not New York, but when four women make a clear and detailed plan to do something together several weeks from origination date, it never happens. Like maybe two people will go, but lots of times no one will, and I must say I was delightfully surprised to find us all alit on blankets in the shade, picnic items and wine to share, this past Saturday afternoon. The sun was sunny but not too sunny and there was a breeze and plus Cate brought hand fans that went perfectly w Ali’s sparkle and gorgeous DVF dress, and we feasted on an entire watermelon, chopped into juicy little bite sized pieces by Michele.

My son stretched out on the blanket, snacking, and braced himself for something boring and unintelligible. I realized I hadn’t told him anything about the story, so real quick pulled up the Spark Notes on my phone and gave him to gist. I’m not one of those theatre people that knows all the Shakespeare plots by heart, and I’ve never seen Twelfth Night before, so when I looked up the plot for C, it gave me insight, too.

Knowing the plot of something before you watch it is a distinct disadvantage for contemporary drama, where the whole thing basically is about being on the edge of your seat, eyes glued to screen, to find out what’s going to happen. But with work that is less about plot, more about the language and viewing experience, knowing the plot ahead of time is the difference between not knowing what the hell is going and actually getting the jokes.

The production made great use of the space, playing on a patch of dirt within a copse of trees. As we walked through the park the rest of the day, C thought every patch of dirt we passed should be a stage. I agree, of course, as does Shakespeare, with his whole “all the world” thing. C was entranced when Vinnie Pena, as Sir Toby Belch, jumped drunkenly into the trees. When Pena moved on, C took up residence in the tree and watched the rest of the play from there. I was surprised that C enjoyed the show so much, and only interacted w his ipad (21st Century distractibility is a real demon) here and there. It was a beautiful way to see Shakespeare, and made me feel distinctly that, had I been a denizen of the Old Globe, I would have been one of the groundlings for sure; drunk, guffawing, and generally enjoying myself without any decorum at all.

Highly recommend the show, Sara Thigpen’s direction, and the whole insanely entertaining cast. Also it made me remember how much I love theatre people, and why.

If you go– you should go– details here.

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We were stoked to see this much nature.
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Vinnie Pena in the trees.
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C in the trees as soon as the actor cleared out.
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The beautiful and talented Sevrin Anne Mason, flanked by Vinnie Pena and Spencer Aste, who were very funny.
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Central Park is amazing.
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We went to the sprinkler park after.
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Today C is accompanying me to work. He’s been pretty good natured about it.

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