On Sunday, I'm taking a 9-year old to see the final performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Stonington Opera House. This morning he and I watched Peter Hall's 1968 movie version -- which I ordered through the Bangor Public Library. From the opening credits, it struck me that Hall and Julia Whitworth have some crossover about the mysteries of this play. Even the setting of Hall's movie looks ever so slightly like Deer Isle. (Check out the granite-like backdrop to the opening credits.)
See you Sunday, kids.
You can learn more about Hall's movie on IMDB. Love the Hollywood writing credit: Shakespeare. Too bad Will's not a member of the writer's guild, eh? He could live off of summer royalties alone. And for those who love Brit actors and hearing the language in its natural patois, look for Helen Mirren, Judi Dench and Diana Rigg in all their youthful glory. They speak the language perfectly, so it's an excellent place to start learning the rhythms.
An alert for the nudity censors among you: Hall's fairies show a lot of skin (it's the 1960s, after all). This is VERY different from Whitworth's production (although Stonington does get some steam going). But both Whitworth and Hall see the (somewhat rotten) fruits of power plays in love. And the scenes can be as chilling as they are exciting.
Most important: If you're thinking of taking a youngster to the Stonington Midsummer this weekend, help him or her before the show by going over the plot and characters together, talking about the themes and getting familiar with the style of Shakespeare's poetry. (Not a bad habit for adults, too.) Perhaps on the ride to Stonington, pop a DVD into the car player -- perhaps the 1999 movie with an all-star cast including Kevin Kline, Michelle Pfeiffer, Calista Flockhart, Christian Bale, Stanley Tucci.
Children have a natural openness to Shakespeare's verse, and I think Whitworth's interpretation, which features four local Island girls, is engaging for young people, too.
Here's the point: Learn Shakespeare early and you have the basis for a lifelong relationship with language, history, beauty. Take your kids to live performance and you engender creativity, elegance and the ability to think imaginatively -- as well as good community participation.
See you Sunday, kids.
PS: Look at the amazing Helen Mirren as Hermia. She was 23 in 1968, when the film came out.