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