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What To Know About Shakespeare On The Common — And Why To Take The Kids

Gracyn Mix plays Juliet in Commonwealth Shakespearea Company's free production on the Boston Common. (Courtesy Evgenia Eliseeva/CSC)
Gracyn Mix plays Juliet in Commonwealth Shakespearea Company's free production on the Boston Common. (Courtesy Evgenia Eliseeva/CSC)
This article is more than 2 years old.

Shakespeare is for kids.

It’s also for adults, of course. But if you’re wondering whether you should take the family to see “Romeo and Juliet,” this year’s free production from Commonwealth Shakespeare Company on the Boston Common through Aug. 6, the answer is yes.

Here are six reasons why:

  1. It’s free, and it’s outside. So if the kids get bored, you can go for a stroll or just leave.
  2. “Romeo and Juliet” is one of Shakespeare’s more accessible plays. Everybody knows the plot, right? (Star-crossed lovers fall in love at first sight; their families hate each other; it’s a tragedy, so we know not to expect a happy ending.)
  3. In all his plays, Shakespeare wrote at multiple levels: exquisite poetry and complex characters, mixed with low comedy and swordfights. Kind of how “Phineas and Ferb” keeps the kids laughing with sight gags while you kick back and enjoy the wordplay.
  4. They'll understand more than you think. Yes, the language takes a bit of getting used to — for everybody. Even the artistic director of the august Royal Shakespeare Company, Gregory Doran, says he’s always lost for the first 10 minutes or so, until he adjusts to the rhythm and vocabulary. But if you relax and let it wash over you, you’ll get into the flow soon enough.
  5. By taking your kids to a Shakespeare play before they read one in school, you’re giving them a better introduction to his work. Reading a play is like reading a blueprint: It’s interesting once you know how, but it doesn’t really teach you what it feels like to be in the building. You have to go there to get the whole experience — especially if you’ve never seen a building before.
  6. Did we mention the ice cream truck?

OK, if we’ve sold you on the “why,” here’s the “what” and the “how”:

  • Performances run through Aug. 6, every night except Mondays. They start at 7 p.m. Sundays, and at 8 p.m. all other nights. There’s one matinee, on Aug. 5.
  • Some performances are accessible: ASL interpretation, July 28 and 29; audio description, July 30 and Aug. 4, with backstage “touch tours” 30 minutes before the show starts; open captioning, July 27 and Aug. 3. All performances have large-print and Braille programs and assisted listening devices available free, as well as designated wheelchair seating areas.
  • “Greenshows” — quick sketches put on by the company's apprentices before each performance — are a family-friendly way to learn a bit more about the play and have a few laughs.
  • You can bring a lawn chair, or rent one for $5. For a $75 donation, you can go online and reserve a chair in the “Friends” section. Blankets and beach towels are fine, too.
  • The stage is near the Parkman Bandstand. Boylston and Park Street are the closest T stops.
  • If you’d rather drive, you can get a $1 discount coupon for the Boston Common Garage at any of the Commonwealth Shakespeare tents.
  • There are food trucks and nearby takeout — Chinatown is a 10-minute walk away — but packing a picnic is fun, too. Just don’t bring any alcohol.
  • If the weather looks iffy, call for an update: 781-239-5972.

Oh, and one more thing: We can’t tell you for a while whether this production is any good. You can go as soon as tonight, but critics aren’t allowed to review until July 26.

We do know, though, that the pleasingly diverse cast includes a mix of local favorites and new faces, and that the design team includes some top-notch artists. This is also the first time artistic director Steven Maler has handed over the reins on the Common, so it will be interesting to see what American Repertory Theater's Allegra Libonati makes of the play.

Related:

Louise Kennedy Twitter Contributor
Louise Kennedy previously worked with The ARTery and as editor of Edify.

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