Saturday, July 19, 2014

To Thine Own Self Be True


The guy likes Shakespeare.
I've told you that before...over here.
He walks around with a beat up MacBeth book in his hand and yes, he has huge chunks of it memorized.
For his birthday, his wise and thoughtful aunt got him a similar version of Hamlet.
It's called Shakespeare Made Easy.
On the left hand side of the page is the original text.  
On the right hand side is the translation or an easier version.


So, he's been walking around for a few weeks with Hamlet in hand...in restaurants, carrying it to speech,  thrown into my bike basket.  I had a friend who saw him in the waiting room at speech reading Hamlet come up to me and kind of ask out loud if this was real.

Did he like Hamlet?

YES.
He does...really.
As soon as she thought it was real, she turned to Patrick and started to dish...
who was his favorite character?  
What did he think of Hamlet?
We had stumbled onto another lover of the British playwright.

I think that as a way to diffuse, explode and crack away the myth that people with Down Syndrome are stupid, we should just have them carry around some texts of Shakespeare.
It blows people's minds.

Like looking in a fun house mirror they just aren't sure of what they see.

We like to place people in tiny, little, immovable boxes.
It's more comfortable that way...
but sometimes they don't fit in.

Sometimes the stereotype cracks.
People have to stop and rethink certain givens that they've trusted their whole life.
And if they stop and rethink that one, who knows, maybe there are a whole bunch of other certainties that just aren't that certain any more.
Powerful stuff.

But only if you're given the chance...
only if the opportunity is seized.




So, we took a chance and signed Patrick up with other teen-age Shakespeare fans for a two week camp.
It was all day long with typical kids and real actors and directors who are staging some Shakespeare for a festival in our town.
He got up each day energized and excited to go...but wouldn't tell us too much.
He didn't get the script for Much Ado About Nothing until midweek of the second week.

What had they been up to all this time??

Patrick got the part of Benedick for Act I and Don Pedro for Act II.
That, right there, was something he'd never considered before...
he fiddled with that idea, resisted it for a few days, but gradually came to know that you could play two parts.

The play of Much Ado About Nothing was going to be presented on Friday, 
just two days after getting the script.
Patrick began memorizing, repeating and rehearsing in his room...
but he didn't have enough time.
Thursday night he was worried.
He was used to knowing his lines (and everybody else's) -- he couldn't believe he wouldn't be ready.
But the joy of being a part of the play and a part of this group motivated him to accept the truth and just use the script when needed.

So today at 3pm, Caroline and I showed up for a little Shakespeare.
I'm always on pins and needles at things like this...you just never know how it's going to go.

But this was a group who shared a passion.
A group where he spoke the language.
A group where he belonged.
He didn't have to earn his way in...he just had to love Shakespeare and that was good enough.

The little play was a whole lot more...it had improv, movement, singing some explanation of who Shakespeare was as a person...and yes the entirety of 
Much Ado About Nothing.

Patrick was a part of everything.
Before my very eyes I watched a metamorphosis of unsure junior high kid into full high schooler...
confident and true to himself.

I was teary thinking of my friends with young children with Down Syndrome who continue to be denied entrance into this world of acceptance and inclusion.
If only those naysayers could have seen the improv!

I'm so grateful to a group of actors who have created a sanctuary for kids who love Shakespeare and allowed each teen the freedom to come as you are and take away all that you can.

For costumes for the show the kids were supposed to wear black.
We missed the memo.

Patrick came home the night before the show and created the costume he thought would work.
It wasn't black...
but I got no last minute phone call...
no rescuing the situation...
no tweaking or freaking out.

It didn't matter.
No one seemed to care, 
and the production went off without a hitch...

so refreshing.

Shakespeare with a chill pill.

And after the play came this quote,  "You can go now.  I'll meet you at home."
Full teen.

Tonight, I am grateful to the Davis Shakespeare Ensemble.
I'm grateful to this group of actors, directors and musicians who share their passion and work to make Shakespeare come alive.
Grateful for their hard work and ability to engage with teens of all sorts.
I'm grateful to live in a town that is accepting and tolerant and inclusive.
I'm grateful to an 8th grade teacher who taught Shakespeare to an entire group of middle schoolers, never dumbing it down or diluting it, thrilling them with the action and the language...
and lighting a fire.

Most especially, I am grateful to the Bard of Avon...
the witty, the insightful, the tragic and comic Shakespeare...
who has touched the heart and soul of my son hundreds of years later.

There's no doubt that Shakespeare has shaped my son...who would have guessed?


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