There’s a reason Shakespeare is the big man on campus. He’s bigger than Van Wilder and more infamous than the guys from Animal House. Shakespeare’s the guy you knew in high school, college, and beyond and when you actually take time to listen to his words, you become part of something great.
If I sound like that crazy English teacher you had in high school, that’s probably because this past winter, I was that crazy English teacher. While a long-term substitute at Nampa High School, I tried to motivate the freshman to read Romeo & Juliet by making it relevant and fun… only that didn’t seem to work at all and the better I got at selling the play and Shakespeare to the full group, the more a small group of students started to pull away. When I’d try to talk to them one-on-one, they’d say, “I don’t get it. Why can’t they just talk like real people? This is dumb.” Ah – those were the days.
When I went to see Willamette Shakespeare’s version of Romeo & Juliet at Stoller Vineyards last night, I was ready to catch up with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while and also watch the classic Shakespearean tragedy. I was surprised when at the end of the show, I was actually moved by the story. This surprised me. When I taught the play in January, I sort of mocked it. We English teachers had our students compare marriage and relationships in Shakespeare’s day to relationships in our parents’ day to now. I’ve never really thought that dying for love is all that romantic, stupid maybe but not romantic.Well yesterday evening, after Romeo had poisoned himself and Juliet killed herself with a dagger, I was awed by their parents. The movies always ruin this part: they either omit it altogether or they make the reconciliation so cheesy (Pizza My Heart – check it out) that the viewer rolls her eyes. This years’ Capulet and Montague got to me. They seemed to actually care and make amends, something that even people in my own family have not been able to. This world we live in is so ruined by our quarrels and frustrations with each other. If only we were all willing to give up the fight and shake hands a little more frequently, life would be just a little bit better for everyone.
Willamette Shakespeare Company provides classic Shakespearean drama to the public for free every summer. This is the fifth season of this beloved company and I’m so glad that I’ve been able to make it to Stoller Vineyards to watch the show every season thus far. (The only one I’m questioning if I was there for sure is A Midsummer’s Night Dream – though I don’t think I would have missed this one as it’s always been my favorite from Shakespeare.)There are still four more weekends of Willamette Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet (including this one). They’ll be at Stoller Vineyards in Dayton today and tomorrow (August 3 & 4); Montinore Estate in Forest Grove August 9th through 11th; Willamette Valley Vineyards in Turner from August 16th through the 18th; and Taborspace in Portland August 23rd & 24th. If you like art, theater, cool accents, wordy language, or just a bit of wine and culture, I’d definitely check it out.
Tata for now.