Urban Shakespeare: Final Reflections

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d tow’rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

My photos did not come out well at all: for some reason, the inner workings didn’t work too well, so…unless I get more photos from the production, I will have to make do with what is above. My apologies, but what you see up top: on the left, my Pucks (six in all, ranging in age from 7 to 13); on the right, my Helena & Hermia (back to back), with Demetrius to the right. Theseus is in the far background.

“Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind.”

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (I, i, 234)

One of the first things said after the curtain call (NOT by me) was: “Look at what we accomplished!”

NO…look at what the kids accomplished!

It’s all about them, not the adults, who bickered, got in each others ways, made scapegoats, argued, ignored, interrupted, did not work as a team with the production staff, the production staff who did not work with others in the production staff…it’s not about the adults. The kids either get it or they don’t, and in this case…

They got it. The 44 kids, ranging in age from 7 to 13, DID get it, and they did present SHAKESPEARE!! Whether they knew it or not, they enhanced their literary knowledge, were not dumbed down to, and they rose to the challenge. They spoke in iambic pentameter as LANGUAGE, learned comic and dramatic timing, presentation, stage and life skills, and so much more in a relatively short period of time.

Just so you know, their first performance? After it, I couldn’t talk. I teared up and cried from the pride I had at what they had accomplished. I was SO touched by what they put out on stage for their first paying audience. They earned their applause and laughter all the way. It wasn’t the Parent’s audience…you know, where no matter what happens the parents will applaud and love it. This was an audience of other camps, whose campers showed them the work before them was worthy of laughter and applause.

Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.
William Shakespeare

There were moments and aspects of this production that I will never forget:

  1. The young man who played Bottom WAS Bottom, from the audition to the final performance. If anything, he honed his comic timing and acting presence to a fine art, and I truly to hope to see him continue in the craft. Yes, I did tell him so. I don’t think I’ve ever been so impressed with a young actor as I was with him, except for…
  2. The young woman who played Oberon: yes, YOUNG WOMAN. 9 years old, and just blew me away! Barely 4 feet tall, what she put into the performance was simply mesmerizing. She deserved this part, earned it, grew into it fully and expertly. I also expect great things out of her.
  3. The two female leads (Hermia & Helena) are truly gifted young actresses. Both blessed with amazing voices (the musical director and they created character development songs that ADDED so wonderfully to the show), they also grew over the six weeks into their roles.
  4. The final rehearsal for the mechanicals “Show Within A Show” had all of us laughing so hard. Our Demetrius was crying with laughter from their antics. None of us could keep it together: they were just so over the top funny. I wish we could have recorded THAT for a blooper type reel. Truly: six young people being SO amazingly nutty AND ON TARGET!  I wish you could have experienced it with us. Writing about it just can not give it justice.
  5. With a great Stage Combat artist, we were able to have our Lysander and Demetrius fight not only with words over Helena but with staves as well. We talked it over, and then when I first saw it in actuality…it was a Wow moment, and it was for the audience. Excellent timing and a great addition to the show.
  6. The Fairy Lullaby
  7. The Pucks, when they actually began to really work as ONE PUCK, when it finally clicked for them.
  8. The Finale: after Puck’s final speech, I wanted something hot and on fire, with an entire cast blow out (before the curtain call). While I did not really get what I wanted (a friend who came to TWO of the performances said “it was nice” but…nice was not what I wanted), it still was a great button to the show, and the audience dug it (little did they know that it was Peter Gabriel’s “The Rhythm of the Heat” that got them going).

So…I am very glad to have had the opportunity to finally direct most of my artistic version of one of my favorite of Mr. Shakespeare’s plays. I truly did care and love most of my cast (even if they gave me the heebie-jeebies with their non-stop talking and antics). There are many things I could vent about here, but I won’t. In the end, the play is the thing, all the world’s a stage, and I’m done with this and moving onto my next project, as it should be.

Puck. If we shadows have offended, Think but this and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
If you pardon, we will mend.
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call:
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends. [Exit.

      –William Shakespeare

(*Special Thanks to Mr. Derek Galloway for the three pics inserted into the essay)

12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Roy A. Ackerman, Ph.D., E.A.
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 20:26:42

    Obviously, you need to stick to writing, editing, and directing. Leave the Kodak moments to someone else.
    Thanks for sharing the truly eloquent moments!


  2. bornstoryteller
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 20:56:27

    Roy, USUALLY I take pretty good pics, but I had no idea the camera jammed on me mid turns, and I was rushed by someone (who was PO’d with me that I was doing it, not her). But, yeah..if someone else can take photos, probably the best.


  3. Penelope J.
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 23:35:49

    So it all came together in the end! Was pretty sure it would but the pre-production period for any stage play is always hectic, frustrating, loaded with obstacles and setbacks, bickering, antics, quarrels, etc. So I think that a) you must give yourself some credit as the director for pulling all of this off and b) sounds like you have a uniquely gifted cast so please see how the kids that you mentioned can get into/be included in other productions before this experience becomes just a memory to them.


  4. Penelope J.
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 23:47:38

    Sorry to hear that side of the story.


  5. Adriene (Sweepy Jean)
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 06:24:51

    Congratulations, Stu! So sorry the process was not smoother, but considering the breadth of this production, this is most likely an experience the children will never forget! I bet they will look back at this fondly during high school English class, and feel like they have a head start in understanding what Shakespeare is all about!


    • bornstoryteller
      Aug 15, 2011 @ 07:44:26

      I hope some do. No matter what certain people may think I think about the kids, I really did care about MOST (not all…that is MY own personal fault) of them. Really cared about their growth, and I saw a LOT in the six weeks.


  6. Lisa Kander
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 08:03:03

    “The course of true love never did run smooth-”

    Yet theater magic prevailed in the end! I am delighted to learn of the joy and pride you shared with your young artists.

    I totally understand what you mean about the adults’ “contributions” and how frustrating that can become.

    Another comment that resonates for me is the “Parent audience”- it’s great to have those, but the real audience is what supports the art.

    Having recently “retired” from my long labor of love with youth theater directing, I will be interested to hear of your future adventures.


    • bornstoryteller
      Aug 16, 2011 @ 08:06:47

      Lisa, I’m sure they’ll draw you back in. Sometime.

      This was a mixed summer for me of highs and lows, but…some of those kids really meant a lot to me, even if others did not see it.


  7. Hocam
    Aug 17, 2011 @ 11:22:51

    Don’t you love it when a plan comes together! Children are so amazing when they decide to give it their all.


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