By Pamela Lockman – St. John’s Ravenscourt
My love affair with Shakespeare In The Ruins has been going on for almost 20 years now. Since arriving in Winnipeg in 1997, I have seen every one of their spring productions and “stripped down” fall school shows.
What SIR offers our community in terms of providing great theatre for public audiences is only one of the terrific things they do. Even greater than that, however, is what they offer to hundreds of students every year through their fall school tours.
SIR performs a veritable repertoire of “Shakespeare’s Greatest Hits for Schools.” In the recent past, these have been Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Scottish play, and this year’s, Romeo and Juliet. The school shows are “stripped down” versions of the plays; that is, they are only about one-hour long, and all the parts are played by four actors.
The students don’t all read the play first, but the performances are so entertaining that almost all of the students “get it”. This year we warned our students that Stripped-Down Romeo & Juliet would be played by an all-male cast. “What about the kissing?” asked one student. “Will they kiss?”
“Well, Romeo and Juliet do kiss,” I responded. And then I got to give a little lesson on how in Shakespeare’s time women were not even allowed to act on stage and so it was all male actors all the time.
The students love that SIR takes risks in their productions. Some of the comments afterward commended SIR for entertaining us so well and for making the story easy to understand. They are always thrilled when one of the actors talks directly to the audience, or, better yet, when they pull a student or a teacher from the audience to dance or to sit at a table with other actors. There is no doubt, SIR knows how to please their young audiences as well as their teachers!