What is Shakespeare for a young audience?
What should it be?
Should it accessorize a high school lit class?
Should it be a training tool for emerging actors?
Should it be a compelling work of theater?
Does it need to be forever produced to preserve and progress the theatrical canon?
If productions of Shakespeare ceased entirely who would notice?
Who would care?
Further, and perhaps more specifically, when we consider the treatment of Shakespeare by Dallas Theater Center, which is what we are doing thanks to the current production of Romeo & Juliet, does it have to speak specifically — aesthetically — to the time in which it is being produced?
Is it not possible that Shakespeare in its original clothes is just as relatable?
Is it not true that Shakespeare in its complications is just as meaningful?
Is not the most difficult part of Shakespeare showing up and paying attention?
Are not the most challenging portions of Shakespeare the first 20 minutes of linguistic adjustment?
Could not the Queen Mab speech in Romeo & Juliet be one of the earliest examples of psychological metaphor in theatrical dialogue?
And therefore worth preserving, if we plan to preserve Shakespeare?
Should it not be brushed off?
Dismissed in a short line of song?
Isn't it true that that speech — frustrating though it might be — is a pivotal part of the play's focus on the gray areas between day and night? (The ones that arise in growing up.)
The space between light and dark?
Love and hate?
Childhood and adulthood?
Reality, and, well in this case, dreams?
Besides, could we not get through one Shakespeare play without someone attempting to reach the youths with "contemporary" music? (Rarely, if ever, choosing music like Drake, T-Swift, or whatever young people are actually listening to, not what we think they're listening to.)
Can we try at least to take the audience — young and old — more seriously?
If we cannot praise the production, which though bewitching feels insincere, shall we praise Christina Vela's revelatory performance as the Friar?
Should we admit that we've never understood that character's involvement in the children's love affair before?
Should we then further admit in her leveled, eloquent take on the friar, the character becomes the centerpiece of the play in ways we couldn't imagine but fully appreciate?
Of course, then we would also have to ask, isn't Jake Horowitz a damn good Romeo — a pathos-filled vision of the tipping point from love-sick childhood into tragic adulthood?
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And should we not also say, flaws aside, to learn something in a Shakespeare play we've seen a million times before, is perhaps everything we want from an evening of theater?
Isn't that what Shakespeare should be for an audience — young or old?
Romeo & Juliet continues through February 28 at the Kalita Humphreys Theatre. Tickets at dallastheatercenter.org.