It never would have occurred to me to take Owen to see a Shakespeare play had the Shakespeare Theatre Company not hosted Family Week as A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs at Sidney Harman Hall. After all, I didn’t get my first dose of The Bard until I was in high school nor did I fully appreciate his work until I studied it as an English major in college.
But the Family Week promotion caught my attention. There were performances geared toward little ones during the week, along with special family ticket packages for the full-scale production that implied the play was appropriate for kids ages five and up. So, when I was offered a couple of complimentary tickets to see the show, I decided my theatre date would be six-year-old, Owen, instead of my husband.
That turned out to be an excellent decision. Not only did Owen enjoy the play, it was a fantastic way for him to experience Shakespeare for the first time. A lot of it had to do with the production itself — A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a light, fanciful tale filled with whimsy and humor. Fairies, magic, and romantic mix-ups are factored well into the story, and plenty of comedy, both cheeky and physical, rounds out the fun. And this version has some touches that I think makes it a little more relatable for kids. The characters’ costumes look contemporary — Hermia and Demetrius wear prep school uniforms — and Lysander seems familiar with his “dude”- like delivery and jeans, flannel shirt, and guitar on his back.
It also helped that STC provided programs for kids that included a synopsis of the play as well as word games and other fun tidbits about Shakespeare and the show (they also had some craft projects for kids in the mezzanine lobby, though we skipped them). I’d given Owen some background beforehand, but we also read the synopsis together, which definitely helped him follow the plot. And seeing other kids in the theatre — quite a few families took advantage of Family Week — likely made the whole experience less intimidating. In fact, the way Owen cackled at some of Bottom’s funniest moments, I’d say he was pretty darn comfortable being there.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be at Harman Hall in Penn Quarter through January 6. And even though Family Week is over, I still recommend giving it a go with the kids. Give them some background beforehand, and it wouldn’t hurt to ask the theatre if they have any more of the kids’ guides. Like me, you might be pleasantly surprised to find you have little Shakespeare fan in the family.
Tickets for A Midsummer Night’s Dream start at $43. Performances take place most evenings with some afternoon shows on the weekends as well.