My daughter is starting to look at private schools, and I’m trying very hard to let her drive it at her own pace and not be one of those dads that asks all the questions. So I’m picking my spots on when and how to bring up Shakespeare.
The typical pattern, for context, is that you’re assigned a current student who shows you around campus and answers questions, both from the child as well as the parents. Then you sit down for a more formal interview — first your child goes in, then the parents.
School #1: One of the biggest and best in our area, and probably her first choice. We’re shown the theatre and are told that there’s a fall musical, as well as a drama production. I scan the posters on the wall and see Midsummer Night’s Dream.
I ask, “What sort of drama productions do you do?”
“Oh, all kinds,” our guide tells me.
“Any Shakespeare?” I ask. “I saw the Midsummer Night’s Dream poster back there.”
“Oh we do a whole variety of shows,” she tells me. “Most recently we did this one play called Columbina, I think it was?”
For a second I think she’s actually trying to say “Coriolanus”, which would have impressed the dickens out of me. But alas she is not, she’s talking about a modern piece that I have to assume was about the events of a post-Columbine world.
Afterward I learn that my daughter is even more forward that I am, and during her interview asked, “Do you have any Shakespeare classes?” That’s my girl! She gets the answer that there will be some Shakespeare, yes. There are not dedicated classes, but it’s covered in the English classes. Which I guess is the best I can expect.
School #2: We’re going around, I’m looking to pick my spot. I have learned from the first school the general pattern of how these things go and the terms to watch out for, so I’m waiting for her to bring up whatever performing arts programs they offer in case Shakespeare comes up organically.
We’re walking through the visual arts area and the guide is going on about various offerings, and I’m only half paying attention when I hear “…blah blah blah, blah blah Shakespeare blah.” (She wasn’t really saying blah, I just don’t know the context of what she was saying.)
I lift up my head and it appears to me like my wife and daughter are now looking at me, to see if I caught the Shakespeare reference. But the girl has not stopped talking, so I’m playing it all back in my head to figure out if I can guess. I can’t.
“Did you just say Shakespeare?” I ask.
She looks confused. “I….don’t think so,” she says.
I look at my wife and daughter, who also look confused. I have apparently imagined this entire thing.
Tour guide takes a moment to run back in her head everything she did say, because now she’s wondering why I would randomly have brought up Shakespeare in the middle of the visual arts building, but nope, Shakespeare apparently has not come up. “We’re big Shakespeare fans in my house,” I tell her, trying to cover the awkwardness, “So whenever somebody mentions Shakespeare I tend to whip around and look to see where it came from. Guess it was a false alarm.”
That was literally the only Shakespeare reference at this school. My daughter doesn’t even remember if she asked about it.
School #3: Big school, many buildings, lots of kids moving around in all directions. We are in the arts building and walking up a flight of stairs when we pass two male students, one of whom is clearly carrying a jester’s hat and a sword. A legit metal sword.
Wondering if it’s perhaps a Renaissance Festival kind of thing, or maybe they have Society for Creative Anachronism on campus, I ask our guide, “Ok, are we going to find out why that guy’s walking around with a sword? I have to know.”
So she flags him down. “David! This gentleman wanted to know why you have a sword.”
He says something to her that I don’t hear because she’s had to open a door and follow him into a hallway, but he’s coming back with her when she returns. “Performance project,” she says.
One of the boys explains, “It’s a great class. Our teacher Mr. <whatever> assigns parts and then you have to act them out in class.”
“So,” I ask, “What are you performing?”
“Hamlet,” they say.
I turn to my daughter. “We’re done,” I tell her. “You’re going here.” I explain that Shakespeare is huge in our house and we’re very excited to hear them say that. I ask what part specifically they’ll be performing.
“Today,” says one boy, “I will be killing Polonius,” motioning to the other boy.
“Great scene,” I tell them.
“Act 3,” says Polonius, and I wonder whether he knows the scene number and has just forgotten it. That’s ok because on the fly I’m not sure I’d remember the exact scene either.
I’m seriously tempted to sit and have a discussion with them, because honestly I think that the best part of that scene is Hamlet’s confrontation with Gertrude, but they don’t have a Gertrude with them so I’m temporarily at a loss as to what to say next. “Break a leg,” I say, and we carry on the scene.
Not ten seconds later I’m playing the scene in my head and decide that what I should have said was, “How now, a rat? Dead, for a ducat! Dead!” Then that made me think of those episodes of the Cosby Show where Theo has to do his Shakespeare homework and magically all of the dinner guests his parents have invited over just happen to have the play memorized and begin reciting the big scenes. In other words, cool in my head, but nerdy and embarrassing out loud. 🙂
Next time, though, for sure 🙂