The Public Theater has announced that it will be offering a special family-friendly matinee performance of just the first, happy, act of its Shakespeare in the Park production of Into The Woods. This is a terrible idea.
Now look: since the Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine fairy tale musical first hit Broadway school groups have been doing performances of just the first act of the show—in which a number of characters go into the woods to seek their fortunes and, it seems, come back out successful—but that doesn't mean that a major revival like the Public's should be supporting the idea. One of the major themes of Woods is that, though it often seems they don't, children listen* and understand more than adults like to think they do. Yes, the light and fluffy(ish) first act is charming, but without the darker second act—in which "happily ever after" turns out to be anything but—it is just Disney fluff with better lyrics. The morals and messages of act two are what the show is about [SPOILER ALERT] and should not be whitewashed away because a parent is worried that their little Babar and Esmerelda might be upset that Rapunzel went a little batshit after being trapped in a tower for her entire life.
Fairy tales, no matter what the cartoons tell you, are not necessarily supposed to be pleasant experiences—and that is okay. Take it from someone who was absolutely mesmerized by the second act of Woods as a four-year-old, the show is child-friendly through-and-through. Yes, it has themes that are tricky, but so does life. And if you keep your children completely sheltered from the real world you are likely to end up with a Rapunzel of your own. Just be prepared to, y'know, talk to your kids about it afterwards.
Oh, what is that? You don't care what we think and want to take your kids to see a happy little show where everybody gets want they want? Well, here's the info for the special performance, which will be held August 22 at 3 p.m.:
Tickets to the special family-friendly matinee will be distributed for FREE primarily through the Virtual Ticketing lottery (www.shakespeareinthepark.org/matinee), with a limited number of tickets available through a stand-by line on the day of the performance.
The Public Theater is also now accepting requests for a limited number of group reservations. Interested groups of 10 or more can submit a group request form available on-line at www.shakespeareinthepark.org/matinee. Groups will not be guaranteed tickets and orders will be processed in the order they are received.
The Virtual Ticketing lottery for the family-friendly matinee will open on Wednesday, August 15 at 4 p.m. and remain open through Thursday, August 16 at 4 p.m. Guests can register for up to four tickets and those who win tickets through the Virtual Lottery can pick their tickets up on August 22 at the Delacorte box office between 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. The Delacorte Theater in Central Park is accessible by entering at 81 Street and Central Park West or at 79 Street and Fifth Avenue.
*It is pretty explicit about it, in fact: "Careful the things you say/ Children will listen/ Careful the things you do/ Children will see and learn/ Children may not obey, but children will listen/ Children will look to you for which way to turn/ To learn what to be/ Careful before you say "Listen to me"/ Children will listen"