Eleanor Stacey explained to her daughter that the letters ER on the curtain of the Royal Theatre stand for Elizabeth and Regina.

Making memories at the Civic

Columnist Eleanor Stacey brings us a poignant story of a mother-and daughter outing to the theatre.

n October, I took my six-year-old daughter to the Civic Theatre’s screening of the Royal Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet. We left dad and little brother at home, and left for the theatre together, very aware that there was something out of the ordinary about this girls’ night out. After all, she’s six, so leaving the house for the evening to be somewhere at 7 p.m. is a bit unusual.

On the way there, we talked about Romeo and Juliet. She knew a bit about the love story, having seen the animated Gnomeo and Juliet, but was surprised to hear that in the original version, the young couple dies. “That’s really sad, Mum,” she said. I told her that some stories are sad, but it doesn’t make them bad stories.

The Royal Ballet and Royal Opera films open with an introduction to the venue, interviews with performers, and some behind-the-scenes footage. We saw the dancer playing Juliet developing a piece, as well as a rehearsal featuring some pretty exciting stage sword fighting between Tybalt and Mercutio. Then the scene changed to a view of the velvet curtain on the stage of the Royal Theatre, complete with the royal cypher. My daughter asked me why the letters “ER” were on the curtain. I told her that “E” is for Elizabeth and “R” is for Regina, which means “queen.” She said that she thought it was really cool that the queen had her signature on the curtains.

We only lasted through the first intermission, when her eyes started to close. We had seen Capulets and Montagues bite their thumbs at one another, and watched Romeo and Juliet fall in love, and that was enough. But since then, we have talked about that first act often, especially the costumes and the pointe shoes. It looks like we’ll be going to the next art on screen production at The Civic, which will be The Marriage of Figaro on Nov. 18, and leading up to that we’ll be joining grandma to see Nelson Community Opera’s production of Jorinda at the Capitol Theatre.

So I think it’s great that my six-year-old is into trying opera and classical ballet, but that wasn’t what I loved most about our Romeo and Juliet outing. Like most parents I know, our daily grind is a busy one, and while we try to make sure that we eat together most nights, read stories with our kids, and do things as a family, the truth is that many of our daily activities hinge on getting to school or getting to bed in some way or another. While we were at the theatre, we didn’t talk about eating vegetables or cleaning up art supplies. We took some time to just enjoy something together in a new way, and it made it really special for both of us.

A few years ago, Metro Vancouver came out with a holiday slogan, geared towards increasing awareness of how much waste gift-giving produced. The motto was “Make Memories, Not Garbage” and I think they are still using it these days. It really stuck with me, not only for the environmental implications, but also for the quality of life values it promoted.

At The Civic, we’re planning a few ways to make memories this winter, with the return of our Home for the Holidays open house, our all-ages New Year’s Eve Pajama Party, and more performance on screen, Thursday night films and Hollywood fare as well. I know it’s still a bit early to be talking about Christmas, really, but there is never a bad time to think about making memories with the people we care about most.

Eleanor Stacey is the executive director at the Civic Theatre.

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