He hopes the play brings military service to the forefront of the audience’s mind. “We have such a wonderful life” in the United States, he said. “But every day, somebody is dying [so] we can have that life. . . . I know how heroic they are. [But] in daily life, we don’t remember.”
Thursday to July 1 at Synetic Theater, 1800 S. Bell St., Arlington; synetictheater.org; 703-824-8060.
Bard goes back to school
Here is a funny thing about Shakespeare: Some of his plays are so teenage, it’s a miracle that adults like them. Rumors are flying around like it’s a junior high cafeteria. Everybody is kissing everybody else. Kids are getting hitched and running away together because no one understands and you can’t tell me what to do anymore so just LEAVE ME ALONE. Door slam. Etc.
Despite the all-too-age-appropriate content, teenagers aren’t always so hot on Shakespeare, for reasons you likely already know: the alienating language, the Elizabethan turns of phrase, the daunting status of the plays as Important Classics One Must Read.
The Shakespeare Theatre Company, unsurprisingly, thinks everybody can appreciate the Bard, teenagers included, which is why it offers Shakespearience, a program for students in grades eight to 12 that consists of in-class workshops and student matinee performances of STC productions. Shakespearience celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.
Marcy Spiro, the community engagement manager, says some form of this program has been around since STC’s inception (this is the 10th year of the officially branded format). This year, the company offered 16 student matinees, a record high for the program. Next year, Shakespearience will serve 9,000 students.
“We’ve worked with everything from D.C. public schools to private schools way out in Virginia and Maryland,” said Jim Gagne, the resident teaching artist who instructs many of the workshops. “We work with a pretty diverse population of students.”
The courses, he said, “are active, active, active. We believe that physical learning is the key to understanding theater . . . so everything we do is about breaking down the barriers and preconceptions students have about classic theater, and letting them know that it’s a play. And that’s what we’re going to do: We’re going to play and explore.”
He understands the apprehension that often accompanies a student’s first exposure to Shakespeare. “Our biggest thing here [is that], truly, the plays were meant to be seen.”
So how would the playwright react if he knew “Romeo and Juliet” is required reading at high schools the world over?
“I think Shakespeare would find it hilarious.”