One day, more than a decade ago, 6-year-old Olivia Ludwig came home from school and said something to her father that made his ears perk up:
“Daddy, I know a bank where the wild thyme blows.”
Now, most dads probably wouldn’t have recognized one of Oberon’s lines from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
But then, most dads aren’t internationally renowned playwrights and self-described Shakespeare fanatics.
When Ken Ludwig, the Tony-Award-winning playwright behind hits including “Lend Me a Tenor” and “Crazy For You,” heard his first-grader recite Shakespeare it got him thinking.
“I’d known Shakespeare since I was young,” he said, adding that his parents bought him a famous recording of “Hamlet” featuring Richard Burton when he was around 12. “I hadn’t thought of bringing it to my children at such a young age.”
But the York County native decided to give it a try. Starting with the excerpt Olivia had already learned in school, he sat down with her a couple hours every weekend and had her memorize a 10-line excerpt. She learned it in three weeks.
While they worked on the passage, Ludwig would talk to his daughter about the story behind it — about Oberon, Titania, Puck and the whole fairy kingdom. About the four young lovers running away into the forest and the play within a play put on by a group of silly tradesmen.
Every Saturday and Sunday they’d hole up in Olivia’s bedroom — shutting the door in case anyone got embarrassed about saying the lines out loud — and study the Bard. Starting with passages from the comedies –— “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Twelfth Night” and “Much Ado About Nothing” — and moving on to darker stories like “Romeo and Juliet” and “MacBeth” as she got older.
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