The burden of my song is: Kids Get Shakespeare. I speak not only of myself, who first saw Shakespeare in a small city park in Altadena a hundred years ago (how I wish I could thank those players bursting from the bushes), but of all the hundreds of kids I have watched watching our productions for the last three decades. Sometimes their parents are a little tense, straining to comprehend every word and phrase, and sometimes fretting so much they only make matters worse. But kids don't know that Shakespeare is a test, and they go with the flow, and you can watch them catching the waves, delighted.
There is no better way to start your children on Shakespeare than with A Midsummer Night's Dream. It's got magic, fairies, lovers, goofballs, a prankster, a fabulous ass, and the funniest tragedy ever to hit the stage. Many kids have already been introduced to the play by movies or classroom projects--they may have even made some fairy wings. But even if they haven't a clue they will get one in no time, especially since in our production the fairies are kids too. And by the end everyone will be deliriously happy, since the play concludes with two actors enjoying protracted pretend death scenes. When I was a kid back in the golden age, dying was an art and a joy. In our neighborhood canyon we played guns with wooden weapons, and the next best thing to killing someone was getting killed, because then you got a death scene: your knees would buckle, your weapon would drop from your hand, you would look up for one last glimpse of the sun, and then collapse, groaning, with legs twitching spasmodically for several minutes. Every kid knows how much fun it is to die, trust me.
And so does every actor. Shakespeare knew this too, and at the end of A Midsummer Night's Dream he wrote two extended, beautiful and very different deaths for the bad actors playing Pyramus and Thisbe. They can't act, but they die great. In our production they die so well and so thoroughly our entire tent is shaking with laughter like jello.
You ought not to deprive your children and grandchildren of this unique opportunity. Here is a play both merry and tragical, and its most tragical moment is its merriest. The play proves over and over that in death there is life, rippling hilarious life. This is the true magic of theatre, as conjured by its greatest magician, Mr. William Shakespeare.