Robert Sean Leonard as Neil Perry in
Dead Poet's Society, playing the part of Puck
It's Shakespeare time again! Our oldest son is back at the California Shakespeare Theatre's Summer Camp, a two-week experience that makes him glow for an entire year. This is his fourth year, and after three tragedies in a row--the plays themselves, not the camp--we finally got a comedy: A Midsummer Night's Dream.
And lo and behold, he landed the coveted part of Puck!
My son is quite a typical 11 almost 12 year old. He loves him some computer games, would spend all his time on the wii (if we let him, and if we currently had one), desperately wants a cell phone, thinks we exist to make his life miserable, can roll his eyes and display disgust like a 16 year old delinquent, and bemoans the fact that we don't eat at fast food restaurants.
But Shakespeare, ah, Shakespeare: Shakespeare lifts this boy up and out of himself and sets him down in an entirely different universe, and he loves loves loves it. He was telling me the story of MND today, and couldn't remember the name of one of the characters. And I said: "Maybe that's because you just heard it yesterday for the first time?" And he said: "No, mom, I've known this play forever: I really should know this!" Today, he nervously mentioned that he didn't think he could memorize all of his lines. I reminded him that he has said that same thing for the past three years, and that I was absolutely sure he could do it with ease. He smiled, and was reassured; he is not always an easy child to reassure, and watching him relax made me ever more grateful for this camp.
Every kid should have a chance to find that thing that gives him confidence, stretches his talents, gives him wings and teaches him to fly.
I love Shakespeare for what he has given my son. And I love those camp directors, who gave Samuel the part he really, really wanted this year. To be truthful, I'm not sure if he wanted the part because of Puck's role in the story or if one of Puck's most famous lines resonates with him as the oldest of five and he just wants one minute under the hot lights of the stage to proclaim his bit of truth to a captive audience:
"Lord, what fools these mortals be!"
A Midsummer Nights Dream Act 3, scene 2, line 115
It takes a village to raise a child, and I'm damn glad that William Shakespeare lives in my village. Now, if I could just get him to go pub hopping with me...
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