Suburbs of Our Discontent

Titania and Bottom in a Marin Shakespeare production

If you’re interested in taking your kid to see a Shakespeare play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream's your best bet. There's rhyming, slapstick humor, dumb parents, and fairies. No evil or scary characters appear, and the overall silly quotient is very high. What's not to like? 

The one thing about Midsummer, though, is the sex. Most notably the Queen Titania bestiality plot, which can be played as merely suggestive or as full on donkey love. When you take your kid to a production of Midsummer, you don’t know what you’re going to get, but there's always a chance you'll get something un peu kinky.

So there are some obvious "no’s" when it comes to looking for kid-friendly versions of the play. One of these is The Donkey Show, the disco/burlesque version of Midsummer, which is currently playing in Boston. When I went to see it (with my in-laws!), I discovered that the show’s big on audience participation. Like a half-naked fairy straddling your chair and gyrating.

This weekend I took my eight-year-old to see the other production of Midsummer that's in town. It’s no burlesque, but there was an awful lot of tongue-kissing. My mind became sort of a split screen during the production: one half evaluating the artistic merits of the performance and the other tallying up the sexual innuendos and gestures that might register with my daughter.

By the end of Act III, when Puck says "Jack shall have Jill and naught shall go ill" and makes sure that all the men and women pair up nicely, I was in full-on deep thought about how and when daughters grow up. Will this be the last time she watches this play innocent of its racy references? How many more discussions like this one about the Fairy Queen do we have left?: 

Me: "What did you think of Titania?"
Daughter: "Um, a FREAK!"

I guess this kind of exchange could happen in the future too, but it won’t be the same. At some point, she’ll have had personal experience with all the romantic angst and uncertainty that lurks underneath the fairy dust of Midsummer.

Maybe scratch my recommendation of Midsummer and go with a safe action plot like Henry V instead.

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