A Parent’s Review: Shakespeare in the Park
All the world is a stage, and this summer that stage includes some of your favorite local parks. From Issaquah in the south, to Lynnwood in the north, from Richmond Beach in the west to Sammamish in the east, Seattle Shakespeare Company is bringing the drama to you. And this summer, the company is featuring two very different plays – Twelfth Night and Winter’s Tale – in their summer park series.
Our family enjoyed seeing Twelfth Night at Pine Lake Park in Sammamish. It was a bit of a drive for us, but we were choosing the play over the location. As long time Shakespeare aficionados, it was important to both my husband and me that our kids have a positive first experience in the Shakespearean world. For that reason, we chose the comedy, Twelfth Night, over Winter’s Tale.
Still, we were a little concerned that comedies often rely on word play for humor and that our kids (ages 8 and 11) wouldn’t be able to follow the fast dialogue and high brow language of Shakespeare. Luckily for us, the good people at the Seattle Shakespeare Company had families and kids in mind when they created their adaptation of this great work. A heavy dose of physical comedy helped keep the play moving and from being bogged down in lofty language.
We went online and grabbed a quick synopsis of the play before we went, and that was all the kids needed to get hooked. While the synopsis really helped the kids understand the basic storyline, none of us were prepared for the uproariously funny modern adaptations that were added. I don’t want to give too much away, but let’s just say that we were all singing Beach Boys tunes at the top of our lungs the whole car ride home.
As my son said, the modern clothes and music shouldn’t fit with the old language, but it not only fit but helped to make it all the funnier. Now knowing how much our kids enjoyed Twelfth Night, I’m tempted to try the more serious Winter’s Tale on them. Partly, I’m just curious to see what sort of twist the Seattle Shakespeare Company has put on it. Clearly, they understand their audience at summer parks and how to bring Shakespeare to the masses.
Parks are a great place for theater in that they provide a natural release valve for wiggly kids. If the play just isn’t working out for your kids, at least you are already at a fun location with another choice for entertainment. Of course, this is a double-edged sword. For this type of activity, I find it helpful to arrive at least a half-hour early. Not only will it allow you a chance to grab a great spot near the stage (and perhaps near an aisle), but it also provides the kids with some time to check out the playground and to shake out their sillies before they get settled for the show.
People bringing chairs to the show are encouraged to sit toward the back, however, people with low-backed or beach-style chairs seem to feel comfortable sitting almost at the very front. So if you plan on using a blanket, an early arrival is definitely in your best interest. The actors are so expressive with their faces and bodies that a good view is paramount to maintaining your kids’ interest, too.
Not only is the “Shakespeare in the Park” program available in a variety of areas, the performances are offered on many different days of the week and at different times. While the extra choices are helpful in fitting the outing into an already busy summer, it can be a little confusing. The Seattle Shakespeare Company website provides separate performance calendars for each play as well as maps and directions to each park location. It is the best way to view your options and make your plans.
Whether you choose a matinee or evening performance, sunglasses are probably a good idea. We were all also happy to have brought along light jackets because in Seattle, you just never know. The parks do not provide concessions, but rather allow you to bring in your own food and drink. Our water bottles were lightly used, but my emergency snacks were not even touched – that’s how captivated we all were by the play. At two hours with no intermission, restroom breaks before the start of the show are a really good idea, too.
All of the performances are free to the public. There is a brief pitch before and after the show about ways to support the program. My kids seemed to ignore the first one, but after the play, the youngest expressed some concern that the program might not continue without our support. She wanted to be sure that we could do this again. Summertime should be full of happy surprises, and Shakespeare in the Park was just that for our family. The play, the actors, the atmosphere and our kids’ reactions were all beyond my expectations, and that makes this mom one happy camper.
Kelly Rogers Flynt is a freelance writer based out of Lake Forest Park. She is parent to two thespians in training, ages 8 and 11.
If You Go...
Where: Luther Burbank Park, Lynndale Park, Pine Lake Park, Richmond Beach Community Park, Issaquah Community Center Open Space, Ober Park and Anderson Park.
When: Now through Aug. 12, Thursdays through Sundays. Most shows begin at 7 p.m., some matinees are available on Sundays at limited locations.
Cost: Free, yet donations are accepted (no reservations are required).