The Bard, Field trips and Nail Biting

Each and every year, I embark on a perilous journey.  One that defies all things known and makes the impossible possible.  One that is a black hole with a narrow escape.  One that encompasses magical powers beyond the scope of nature.  What is this odyssey?  Why, it is taking students on field trips to see a Shakespeare play.

This year, I enlisted the help of my trusted friend and confidant Suz.  She and I gathered all of the courage and tenacity we could muster to organize this massive undertaking.  She is the reason I made it through the day.

Let me back up in time and explain the path of the most recent journey we were destined to travel.  It was year 2002, and I was summoned to a grand place in the land of Cleveland known only as The Great Lakes Theater Festival.  From this moment on, I was entranced by their powers.  Enamored by their gently use of The Bard’s great words.  Encased in their sheer talents.  I was, to put it mildly, hooked.  As Juliet would say, “This bud of love, by summer’s ripening breath, May prove a beauteous flower when next we meet.”  Yes, indeed.

From then on, I took students to see these incredible works of art each year.  It was a time to develop young minds, and show (not tell) them how important and timeless the plays of Shakespeare really were.  It was mystical.

But not always.  Many times there were alien students among us.  One particular one did the worst thing possible – he tripped an actor.  According to E.T., his legs needed “extra room” so he put them in the aisle.  Bad, bad alien student.  Another Alf-like creature listened to his iPod through Act I, Scene II of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  His excuse?  “I don’t understand what they are saying.”  My response, “We covered it in class.”  One Mork actually fell into a deep slumber during Twelfth Night.   His rebuttal after other students woke him up with furious tapping and shaking?  “The girl is dressed like a guy and it creeped me out.”  Classy.  These are the villains of my days with The Bard.

But, alas, I have held true to my word and provided the non-alien youth with the best gift of all: the gift of live theater.

The cover looks like Twilight meets R&J.

This year’s presentation was Romeo and Juliet.  I was ecstatic for a few reasons.  First, this is actually one in our literature books, and second, I teach it every year.  Double score!  We both got crazy-eyed with happy thoughts and reserved not the usual 40 tickets, but a whopping 80 tickets with visions of Romeo dancing in our heads.

Yikes.  But we had high hopes. Maybe too high as Mercutio states, “True, I talk of dreams, which are the children of an idle brain, begot of nothing by vain fantasy.”

Let me just state that, for the days approaching the trip, it was as if “the mad blood stirring” was a reality.  Everything that could go wrong, went wrong.

Finally the big day arrived.  We herded 80 students into two school buses at the blistering early time of 7:35 a.m.  We ventured on the hour and a half bus ride to Cleveland.  We gathered all of the students and promptly got them seated in the theater.  We smiled as we sat down in our seats, breathing a collective sigh of relief.

The set. Taken without a flash before the show began.

Intermission came.  Our students deserved halos for their amazing behavior during the first half of the performance.  Brainvomit40 looked at her watch: 11:39.  The buses had to be back by 2:25 for their routes.  Would the show be finished and we be out the door before 1 p.m.?  Enter nail biting.

Throughout the second half (and I must say half, it was technically Acts III, IV, V), I couldn’t focus.  All I could think about was what was coming next.  Here is a look into my mind:

“OK.  She is getting the sleeping potion.  Finally.  Good.  Now she is going to have a monologue and drink it.  Fine.  Now Romeo is going to find out she died.  OK.  We’re good on time.  Crap.  Romeo still has to fight and kill Paris and there is dialogue.  Darn.  OK, he took care of Paris.  Now the death scene.  Geez.  Totally blanked that the Friar’s so many lines here.  Come on already and bring out the Prince to wrap this up!”

By this time, I have no nails left to speak of.  I would be lying if I didn’t confess that we were about to cheer when Juliet said, “O happy dagger!”

The play ended, and we made it on the buses by 1:06.  We made it back to the school by 2:22.  Whew.  I should have been feeling down because it was over, “Parting is such sweet sorrow,” but instead I was thinking thank goodness this is once a year.

I still love the Bard, and I appreciate the opportunity to showcase how incredible his words come alive in a live performance.  “My bounty is as boundless as the sea, My love as deep; the more I give to thee, The more I have, for both are infinite.”

To Shakespeare!

Here is another post I wrote about the Bard.  Enjoy!

40 thoughts on “The Bard, Field trips and Nail Biting

  1. I feel your pain…and your love of the Bard. I too am in love with him. I grew up near near Stratford and saw many plays – Stratford Ontario that is, but they actually have an amazing Shakespeare Festival! Highlights were seeing Maggie Smith as Lady Macbeth and Peter Ustinov as King Lear. I have tried to instill a love of Shakespeare in my kids, but so far no luck. 😦

    • I have always wanted to go to the Shakespeare Festival in Stratford. I have many friends who have been there and really enjoyed it! I would have loved seeing Maggie Smith as Lady Macbeth!

  2. You are brave, indeed. I took a great Shakespeare class in college and was in Twelfth Night. I don’t know how I did it as a kid because some of those plays are loooong and guarantee a butt ache.

  3. You’re lucky to have a theater close enough to take students. When I taught 8th grade, I taught Midsummer every year- after testing- it was the perfect way to close the year. Once I took a group of students to a local, professional production– we loved it! Keep up the good work- the students will remember it even if while you’re doing it you want to pull your hair out.

    • Midsummer is my favorite of Shakespeare’s comedies! I know the students really enjoyed it, and I was glad to have been able to give them the opportunity to see it on stage. 🙂

  4. I love Shakespeare–something that didn’t happen until I actually SAW Shakespeare’s plays performed instead of reading them. I agree with the above posters–keep up the good work, because experiencing Shakespeare is something that stays with a person.

    • I always tell people that Shakespeare plays are meant to be seen on stage more than read in books. I completely agree with you – they are so much easier to understand when they are performed.

  5. I imagine, like brainvomit40, you enjoyed a nice glass of wine that night. Appears it was well-earned.

    And just a side note–too bad you made it to Cleveland without a chance to stop off at the famous Melt Bar and Grilled for a grilled cheese sandwich from heaven. And if you’re really eager, you can take the Melt Bar Challenge–over 5 pounds of grilled-cheese heaven to be devoured by one person. 🙂

  6. Hahahaha! Love that y’all were ready to cheer when Juliet said “Oh happy dagger!” Too funny!

    What an awesome thing you do for your students! Some of my best memories of high school were going to see the stage plays of “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” and “Cyrano de Bergerac.” (sp?). Not only were they beautifully done, but they opened my heart to the greatness that is theatre! Awesome!

  7. Great post. Long Live the Bard!!! Thank you for introducing me to a new “friend” Brainvomit40 She now has me as a follower. Both of ya’ll tell storys very well.

  8. Great post! I remember studying Romeo & Juliet in school, and the teacher showed us Franco Zeffirelli’s cinema version of it (which I loved) but how amazing it would have been then to see it live. Last year while in London I went to the rebuilt Globe theatre and it was amazing inside. Sadly still didn’t get to see a show but the museum attached about that era was fascinating!

    • I, too, show the Franco Zeffirelli’s film. It is such a good adaptation of the play. I would like to make it to London and see the rebuilt Globe. The last time I was there, they were finishing it. I think a trip is in order! 🙂

    • Hamlet is such a great one! So cool that you went to college in Cleveland. You are right – there is so much cultural stuff up there. I love the art museum and the theater district. 🙂

    • There you are! I am so glad you are back. I think you deserve the TOY award. I call it TOY because we are basically like any good Barbie or Lego. We take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’. 😉

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