Author: Judith Frizlen
Wherever I go, I keep an eye out for the children and how they are faring. Unlike adults, young children do not filter sensory information or if they are uncomfortable, communicate it, or choose to leave. Wherever we take them, that’s where they are. If it gets to be too much for them, they cry, try to get their parent’s attention, or sometimes miraculously, fall asleep to shut out the information. Many summer events that take place in the evening are too loud, crowded, or visually over-stimulating for young children, but some are just right. You just have to plan to do it in a child friendly way.
Shakespeare in the park can be one such event. The second play of the summer, the company’s 40th season, is the romantic comedy, Twelfth Night. It opens July 23rd at 7:30 p.m. and is performed every evening except Mondays (weather-permitting) through August 16th. On a beautiful night by the time the curtain goes up, the hill in Delaware Park will be covered with blankets and chairs full of spectators (including families with young children) and picnic supplies.
If you plan to go with young children, be sure to arrive early enough to spend time in the playground near the Rose Garden before heading over to the hill. Many children are familiar with that playground and they feel most comfortable settling in somewhere after exploring the physical environment. After a leisurely visit to the playground, head over to the hill (at least 30 minutes before showtime) to set up your blanket. Stop at the top of the hill to get a program and once you are settled, read the notes to gain a framework for the story.
Find a spot on the edge of the crowd near the bottom of the hill if possible so that you can see the stage and not have to walk in front of a lot of people when you take your child to the bathroom or for a walk if necessary. You will need to bring: picnic supplies (including snacks but limit beverages because the portable toilets can be a turn off for children), wipes to clean up before eating and after going to the bathroom, mosquito repellent (after all the rain we have had, they are plentiful), spare clothes to ward off a chill when the sun goes down, and an extra blanket. You might also want to bring paper, crayons and a few picture books, just in case your child needs to engage in an activity.
If your child gets tired, be prepared to pack up early to go home or comfort your child in your lap while he or she falls asleep. There is an intermission which can be a good time to leave but since you are sitting on the periphery of the crowd, you will not disturb others when you pack up and leave at any time during the performance.
Most people who watch the play have a general knowledge of Shakespeare and the playwright’s universal themes, but few have studied it in depth. During the play, you might find yourself drifting off to watch someone walking a dog around the lake, or marveling at the reflection of the trees in the lake at sunset. These are things that will probably interest your child as well. Given the outdoor venue, rapt attention is not required; the park ambience is a part of the experience.
It is a friendly environment. Depending on your child’s interests, the music, the costumes, the sword fights and in the case of Twelfth Night, the laughter of the audience, will probably grab his or her attention. Yours, too.
Judith Frizlen is the founder, executive director, and parent-toddler program teacher at the Rose Garden Early Childhood Center (www.therosegarden.us). Author of Words for Parents in Small Doses, available at Talking Leaves book store on Elmwood Avenue. She and her husband, Karl, are Buffalo boosters who love to kayak and bicycle in the summer and cross country ski in the winter. They live in the Elmwood Village and have two adult children who have chosen to call Buffalo home.
Lead image – Photo Credit: Kate Boswell – Facebook