Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Magic Shake-Ball

Once again, Michelle is putting me to shame: she takes her daughter to live Shakespearean theater; I take my son to "The Princess and the Frog." I don't even think my nine-year-old daughter would sit through Midsummer Night's Dream (although she was a compelling Titania in the 25-minute version she did at camp this summer).

My kids don't do too well with long stretches of live theater, and I'm starting to think it has to do with the fact that we haven't disciplined them to sit through regular religious services. (Michelle, by the way, is very good about taking her kids to Temple.) You see, back in Shakespeare's day, going to church (especially if you were a closet Catholic) and going to a show were practically the same thing. I think this still holds true: When we went to my niece's first communion last year, my daughter kept craning her neck and complaining that she couldn't see "the show." (This great moment in parenting history was recently matched when I was picking her up from a playdate last week, and--noticing the First Communion pictures of her friend hanging on the wall--she asked the mom if she'd been a flowergirl. I could feel the flames of hell licking at our heels.)

So, the question I'd like to ask the Magic Shake-Ball this week is: Should I start taking my kids to religious services? Will this make them better theater-goers?

"See how belief may suffer by foul show!
This borrowed passion stands for true old woe."
(Pericles, 4.4.23-24)

Okay--this gives me goosebumps. I swear, we don't rig things on Magic Shake-Ball day. We really go with the first line we open to in our anthology. Something unearthly is clearly at work here if this is where my finger landed. I mean this is all about faking passion (a word that has serious religious connotations in Shakespeare's day) with a foul show. So: No using religious services just to train my kids for theater. I hear you loud and clear, Shakespeare.

Maybe I'll just start taking them to political debates. Or MLA panels.


  1. This reminded me of my friend's daughter, who got all bent out of shape at people getting communion and demanded to know where her "snack" was! I think the MLA idea has legs - meaning it will probably serve the same purpose as a 16th century religious service, provided you make them stand the whole time, and give them a good smack if they start to wobble. (If nothing else, it builds character, right?)

  2. Ah, memories. Like that of my then 5 year old cousin commenting to his mother as the Bishop raised the chalice to his lips during his older brother's first communion service in a voice that echoed in Milwaukee, "Mom, he's going to get drunk!"

  3. My two cents? Take them to live theater to train them for live theater. I've take mine to puppet theater, college matinee performances of kid-friendly shows, the local children's performing theater, and other similar shows. They saw Shrek on Broadway this past summer (they're 3 and 5 yrs old) with nary an embarrassing outcry. I give all the credit to the practice at shows where the audiences were more forgiving.

    Joining friends recently at Mass, on the other hand? I was mortified by my children's lack of patience. Apparently, I should take them to religious services if I want to prepare them to sit through someone else's type of service.

  4. When I was taken to regular religious services as a kid, I often had embarrassing mishaps. Like the time I yelled "I don't want that Jesus guy hitting me on the head!" before going up for communion, or when I screamed, "You're NOT my daddy!" to the minister, because I was confused about why people were calling him "father". You really can't win!