« on: August 13, 2018, 01:49:11 PM »
"... in horror, Juliet - that's you - stabbed herself through the heart and died."
Mataya gestured toward the little girl currently sitting on the floor next to another little boy and winked. The girl mimed stabbing herself, over-egging her death scene to the tune of giggles from their interactive audience before finally falling onto her back and snickering quietly as Mataya grinned over at Jon. They'd been running interactive Shakespeare shows together for the summer, but for some reason death scenes always went down well.
"And then, of course, the Watch arrives, along with the Capulets and Montagues, too late to save the star-crossed lovers. Seeing their children dead, they agree at last to end their feud and promise to live in peace with each other from then on," Jon took over for Mataya, gesturing for the two boys who were playing Lords Capulet and Montague to step forward and shake hands to seal the agreement.
There was a fair amount of embarrassment from the boys who, despite having volunteered, were slightly awkward about actually performing.
"And the play closes on the last words of the Prince," Mataya told the crowd of children watching them. "A glooming peace this morning with it brings; the sun, for sorrow, will not show his head. Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things - some shall be pardon'd, and some punished. For never was a story of more woe, than this of Juliet and her Romeo."
"What does woe mean? Is that like saying whoa to a horse?" a voice from the back of the pack of children piped up, raising an arm above his head and waving it to get someone's attention.
"Uh, woe means ..." Jon glanced at Mataya a moment before charging ahead with an answer. "Woe is sadness. Have you ever heard someone say 'Woe is me'? That usually means they're feeling sad about something. It's a different kind of woe than the whoa you say to get a horse to slow down."
Another hand rose in the gathering of children. "And they just [die?" a boy asked, apparently shocked. "It's not a happy ending?"
Mataya smiled gently. "No, it isn't," she agreed. "Romeo and Juliet is what's known as a tragedy play. In tragedies, very often the main characters die, usually because of a misunderstanding."
"But why did their families hate each other?" another child asked, raising yet another hand into the air.
"The play doesn't really say, but we're to assume it's because of some long-standing disagreement," Jon answered.
"But that's stupid," interjected another child. "It's like people hating elves just because they have pointy ears."
"The play was written in a time on Earth when countries went to war with each other over the smallest things," Mataya explained, letting the performers find their seats in the makeshift audience. "Bigotry - hating people for being different to you - it is stupid, and it often ends in tragedy. Shakespeare was writing about the world that he lived in."
"They should have just run away from home together and got married and had kids and lived happily ever after," another child blurted - this one a girl who didn't even bother to raise her hand. Her comment was met with mostly nods and murmurs of agreement.
"Well, that's what they were trying to do," Jon said. "But it wasn't that simple."
Another hand went up, big dark blue eyes wide with the hope of being called on. "You know you said that girls didn't act," this little girl said thoughtfully. "Does that mean Juliet was a boy in a dress?"
"When people first started performing Shakespeare's plays, yes, but not anymore. Nowadays, an actress would play the part of Juliet," Jon replied. "If any of you are interested, there's a program called STARS where you can learn more about the theater."
"That little packet under your chair has all the information about STARS in it, and a little comic of Romeo and Juliet, just in case we totally failed to actually get the story across," Mataya told them, glancing at the clock. "We hope you enjoyed Romeo and Juliet - when we come back next week, we'll be doing A Midsummer Night's Dream. In which nobody dies."
There was a ripple of giggles at the comical expression on her face.
"Thank goodness!" Jon exclaimed with an exaggerated sigh of relief and a grin on his face. This week, they had given them tragedy; next week, they'd give them comedy - each equally important facets of the theater. "Now, I believe there's milk and cookies on the table at the back of the room."
Dismissed, there was a scramble to get to the snacks first. Mataya snorted with laughter, turning to pick up the props that had been discarded. "That went well, huh?"
"I think so, so long as they don't get too carried away with the sword-fighting," he said, as he stooped to pick up the plastic swords there were part of the props.
"Well, we didn't have any injuries today, and there is a lot of sword fighting in R&J," 'Taya pointed out with a smile. "That was fun, though."
"Um ... excuse me?"
She glanced over her shoulder to find one of the girls standing uncertainly nearby, apparently having foregone her chance for cookies to come and say hello to them.
Jon turned, as well, one child-sized plastic sword held in each hand. "Yes?" he asked, with a friendly smile, recognizing the girl as the one who had asked about whether boys had once played the girls' parts.
The little girl looked to be about ten years old, brown hair in a bob and hands in the pockets of her denim dungarees. She glanced between the two adults curiously. "Um ... why didn't the nurse tell Juliet what happened?" she asked.
"She probably just forgot," Jon explained, though the real reason was that Shakespeare simply had to write it that way. "What do you think would have happened if she had told her?" he asked, turning the question back around on her, as he crouched down in front of her so that he was looming over her.
The little girl considered this for a moment, chewing on her lower lip. "It wouldn't have changed anything, would it?" she said eventually. "'Cos ... 'cos Juliet still woke up after Romeo did the stupid and died."
"Exactly!" exclaimed Jon, beaming a smile full of praise. "But that's why it's called a tragedy. Because it doesn't have a happy ending. And there's a lesson to be learned there, too, don't you think?" he asked.
The child frowned, still chewing on her lip. "Don't be a idiot and stab someone just 'cos they're annoying?" she suggested, with a small sparkle in her eyes that suggested she knew this wasn't the answer he was looking for.
He chuckled. "That's pretty good advice, but no ... I think it's more about not holding grudges. What do you think, 'Tay?" he asked, glancing up at his companion, but remaining crouched near the girl.
"Mm?" Mataya moved to crouch with him with a warm smile. "Are we talking about the moral of the story here?" she asked. "Because I always thought that it should have been about not making assumptions and waiting to know all the facts before you act."
"Well, there's that, too, but don't you think the bigger message is not to hold grudges? If the Montagues and Capulets weren't feuding, Romeo and Juliet wouldn't have been forbidden from being together," Jon reasoned, though he understood Mataya's point of view.