So today I got to hang out with Rebel Shakespeare more than ever before. Not only had they come to my local library, they run a workshop for kids before hand that my 8 and 6yr old daughters attended. We decided that my 4yr old son was probably just a smidge too young to pay attention for that long. I also met directors Hannah, who previously I’d only met via Twitter, and Christina.
The workshop was cute, and fun. I’d say mine were the youngest there, but I believe another little 5yr old was snuck in as well – I clearly heard the mother ask several times if she was too young, and then finally she joined. My two tend to be painfully shy for awhile, but the Rebels were incredibly friendly. Special thanks to Allison Kurpiel (who was playing Beatrice in this show) who a couple of times took my Elizabeth by the hand and brought her into an activity when she was too shy or frightened to do it on her own.
The best part of the workshop is actually the play walkthru, where the cast clearly says (paraphrased), “Hi, even though I’m Allison, I’ll be playing Beatrice today. I’m interested in this guy named Benedick, even though I tell everybody I hate him.” Repeat for the entire cast, and then walk through the plot. I know that for my kids the actual Shakespeare language is going to go right over their heads, so this opportunity to do what I always do – focus on character and plot – is a great idea, especially and obviously when it’s done by the people who are about to put on the show. After the workshop I asked my kids, “Who is Beatrice? Who is Dogberry?” and they pointed out the appropriate teenagers who’d be playing the roles, telling me their real names in the process.
The show itself was your classic Much Ado. What do I mean by that? Well, it’s a fairly straightforward sort of story. Not a great deal of drama, in my opinion. Claudio is misled into thinking Hero cheated, we find out he was wrong, everybody lives happily ever after. Meanwhile Beatrice and Benedick do their little dance of finally deciding they love each other. There were some good parts – I was particularly impressed with the masquerade ball, given that this is a touring production who quite literally does not know the space they’ll be working in until they walk into it that morning. So to get the entire cast into that space in a choreographed dance? Not bad.
I’ve done enough of these reviews now that my readers should understand, I don’t critique these kids. They’re doing Shakespeare and they’re taking it seriously, what more can we ask? Some of them are most likely at their best with the comedies, because it allows them to go over the top with the silly. As always, Dogberry and his crew were the silliest of the bunch, reading their lines from an upside-down copy of “Law Enforcement for Dummies.” Verges fell down a bunch, my kids greatly enjoyed that. Good rule of comedy : fall down, kids laugh. I think Shakespeare invented that.
I realized too late that one of their funniest sequences is Dogberry’s great “Write it down that I am an ass” sequence, and had only a moment to wonder whether we’d be doing that scene in front of a bunch of as-young-as-5-year-olds before it began. To my relief, I didn’t see any little heads whip around to ask Mommy or Daddy what that word meant. For my part I covered my 6yr old’s ears, but that was more to get my own laugh than anything else (what with my 8yr old sitting next to me hearing everything anyway). I had an excuse all ready to go, just in case : That’s what they used to call a donkey in Shakespeare’s time. He called him a donkey. Didn’t have to use it.
How about our stars? I already mentioned Allison, whose transformation is wonderful from the sweetheart she is in real life to the standoffish (and somewhat bitchy) Beatrice. Seth Finkelstein played her Benedick for this performance. As someone previously cast in more outwardly comic roles, this made for an interesting twist on the character. His was a Benedick not really used to getting the girl, and not quite sure what he was supposed to do now that he was in the situation. This is very different from when you cast your most handsome leading man in the role, and it’s obvious to the audience that Benedick could (and probably does) get any girls he wants.
I wish Rozzie Kopczynski had more to work with as Hero, but there’s really not much for the actress to sink her teeth into (though her big reveal in the last scene I thought came off quite nicely). In talking to Christine (the touring coordinator) I said, “Someone should give her Viola to work with.”
“She played her last season,” Christine replied.
Hey I could be a casting director! :)
Lastly, I was particularly impressed by Joe Boyce as Claudio. The kid is a natural. I don’t say that to downplay the performance of any of the other members of the cast, all of whom were doing the best they could. It’s just that Joe, who I’m told is actually a first year Rebel, had something in his comic timing that nailed everything he was trying to do, both in his physical action as well as how he delivered his lines. I don’t know much about his story or how he came to the Rebels, but I think he’s got quite a future in this acting stuff if he chooses to pursue it.
My kids later told me that the “the sheriff’s assistant, the guy who fell down” was the funniest part. They lost the Borachio plot a bit, and asked me on the way home what Duncans were. This confused me a bit until they said “They kept saying a thousand duncans.” Oh, ducats. “That means dollars. He paid him a thousand dollars.”
Parts of the story clearly stuck, though, as later that evening their Barbie mermaids had a masquerade ball. Even better I heard my 8yr old work a curse into the story, saying that one mermaid was not allowed to come to the party because “No human house shalt thy enter.” So it looks like both some plot and language may have rubbed off a bit :). Then again these are kids who named their dolls Regan, Goneril, Miranda and Caliban so long ago that they don’t even remember doing it.
I always love to watch the Rebels do their thing. If I lived about an hour east of where I do, I’d probably go see all of their shows. As it is, I find myself wondering what effort it would take to create a branch of my own to expand this great thing that Keri has built. Everybody should have a program like this to support.
Great show, everybody! Here’s hoping that Stevens Library becomes as regular stop on your tour!