As the daughter of a poet and English professor, I was raised on Shakespeare. By the time I was 8 or 9, I knew Romeo’s balcony soliloquy by heart, earnestly asking “What light through yonder window breaks?” My dad took me to film screenings at his college, where I saw Franco Zefferelli’s timeless film version of the star-crossed sweethearts, and sat breathless and agog through Roman Polanski’s gory and macabre Macbeth. We went to drama festivals where I laughed as hard at A Midsummer Night’s Dream’s hapless Nick Bottom as at any of my favorite sitcoms on TV, and fell in love with the feisty Katharina, from Taming of the Shrew, the way other girls my age did with Jo of Little Women, or Anne of Green Gables.
Long before the Bard’s plays were required reading at school, I knew them as pure entertainment – just as Shakespeare intended them to be. And though I’ve come to appreciate the beauty of his written words on the page, and the additional meaning that deep reading can reveal, I ardently believe that any reading of Shakespeare’s plays is hollow unless the work is also seen performed.
This June, WRI is facilitating both, with an in-depth seminar on The Merchant of Venice to be held Friday, June 12, through Saturday, June 13; and an outdoor performance of As You Like It by the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre Saturday, June 20.
The seminar is open to anyone willing to read, discuss, and think deeply about the text. An offering of the prestigious St. John’s College Great Books program, it’s a unique opportunity to engage with a classic work and discover its relevance to modern issues. Participants will be led through two, two-hour small group sessions by Dr. Victoria Mora, vice president of St. John’s College in Santa Fe, N.M. The program will include accommodations and meals, and materials will be provided.
As You Like It will be staged outdoors, my very favorite way to experience Shakespeare. The first time I saw The Tempest – the story of shipwrecked castaways – was on a wind-swept Atlantic coast, and it was unforgettable. What an equally inspired choice to use the beautiful natural landscape of Petit Jean Mountain as the fabled Forest of Arden for As You Like It. All the world a stage, indeed.
The family-friendly performance, part of the Arkansas Shakespeare Festival, is free and open to the public. It’s a great way to introduce kids to Shakespeare, or to acquaint yourself with one of his romantic comedies. But first and foremost, it’s going to be loads of fun. See you there!
Arkansas Women Blogger member Kyran Pittman has been chronicling her "big, little life" online and in print since 2006. Along the way, she became a contributing editor to Good Housekeeping magazine, where her work frequently appears; and the author of a memoir, "Planting Dandelions: Field Notes from a Semi-Domesticated Life," published in 2010 to critical acclaim (including a 4/4 star review in People magazine). A Canadian ex-pat, she lives in Little Rock, Arkansas with her husband and three sons, where she continues to tell her "story of us" at PlantingDandelions.com, a Babble Top 100 Mom Blog.