Sandy Hook survivors turn to Shakespeare in ‘Midsummer’

When a teacher asks a child where she goes to school, and the child cheerfully answers, “Sandy Hook,” we are reminded that childhood is complicated in a whole different way for the kids of the 21st century.

We may also respond to those words with a tug in the throat, a response that happens frequently throughout “Midsummer in Newtown,” a new documentary.

The filmmakers had a nice idea: document how a theatrical production of Shakespeare helped some young people navigate the difficulties that followed the mass shooting on Dec. 14, 2012.

On that day, a 20-year-old man with guns came to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and murdered 20 children and six adults. The town is portrayed here as an idyllic, upscale suburb still in shock over its dark day.

The movie narrows its focus to a handful of people. Two families have children participating in the production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” They have kids who made it out of the school the day of the slaughter.

A third family was not as fortunate, yet their slain daughter seems to live as vividly as the children who are rehearsing for the show.

There are curious aspects to director Lloyd Kramer’s approach to the material. It’s odd that the movie is shot like a cereal commercial, for one thing. And there’s a great deal of talk about God and prayer, yet no one mentions that the massacre prompted a debate about gun control.

The film’s limitations are hardly enough to blunt the emotional impact of seeing traumatized kids find their voices through the community of live theater. Theater gives opportunities to act silly, to learn professionalism, to be part of a team, and this production is no different.

When it comes time to hear the parents’ descriptions of what it was like to live through Dec. 14, the stories are, obviously, gut-wrenching. Perhaps they are necessary to put the theatrical experience in context, although it does seem at times that there are two different movies jostling for position here.

Because of its intimate look at the struggle against grief, “Midsummer in Newtown” gets a pass for whatever wobbles it has as storytelling. Now let’s hope the children of Sandy Hook can continue growing up without too many intrusive eyes being fixed on them.

“Midsummer in Newtown” (2 1/2 stars)

A documentary account of the children of Sandy Hook Elementary School — the survivors of the terrible 2012 gun massacre — embarking on a theatrical production of a Shakespeare play. The movie sometimes seems like it has two different subjects jostling for position, but the heart-tugging spirit of the kids carries it through.

Rating: Not rated; probably PG for subject matter

Showing: Sundance Cinemas

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Life

Inside Elle Marie Hair Studio in Smokey Point. (Provided by Acacia Delzer)
The best hair salon in Snohomish County

You voted, we tallied. Here are the results.

For more than a thousand years, Czech leaders – from kings and emperors to Nazis, communists, and presidents – have ruled from Prague Castle, regally perched on a hill above the Vltava River. Dominic Arizona Bonuccelli
Rick Steves’ Europe: History lives in Prague and its hilltop castle

It’s one of Europe’s best-preserved cities, having been spared from last century’s bombs.

Alarm clock in the middle of the night insomnia or dreaming
Trouble sleeping? Try these tips for getting a good night’s rest

Many adults turn to sleep aids, including alcohol, to help them rest, without realizing that their hectic lifestyles may be contributing to their sleeplessness.

The Stumbling Fiddler Band is scheduled to perform March 3 in Everett. (Photo provided by Port Gardner Bay Music Society)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

Get ready for St. Patrick’s Day with music by the Stumbling Fiddler Band in Everett.

I was charged an extra $250 for a mistaken car rental upgrade

When Leah Page picks up her rental car from Thrifty, it charges her a $250 upgrade fee. Can it do this without her permission, and how can she get a refund?

Naomi Jacobson as Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer in "Becoming Dr. Ruth" at Village Theatre in Everett. (Auston James)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

“Becoming Dr. Ruth,” which tells the sex therapist’s amazing back story, is now showing at Village Theatre in Everett.

Over 200 years, the magic lantern transformed into an educational peacock

Regarded as magic in the 1650s, this device was refined into the more scientific sounding sciopticon by the mid-1800s.

Market for sale plants. Many plants in pots
Snohomish Garden Club plans annual plant sale

The event is scheduled for April 27 at Swan’s Trail Farms. Proceeds will go to scholarships.

Start planting now so you can stop to smell your own roses all summer long

Late winter to early spring is perfect for planting roses. And with so many varieties to consider, there’s no time to waste.

The 2024 Mazda3 hatchback. (Mazda)
2024 Mazda3 adds a Carbon Turbo trim and more safety features

The charismatic compact is available as a four-door sedan or five-door hatchback.

Cousins Penny Leslie and Sidney Baker work together on a mural inside a jail cell at the Mukilteo Police Department on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024, in Mukilteo, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
No more staring at blank canvas in Mukilteo police holding cells

Bright murals now adorn the walls. The artwork is intended to calm and relax detainees.

A heart shaped hand tossed pepperoni pizza, left, and eight-corner Detroit style veggie pizza, right, from Jet’s Pizza on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024, at the Everett Herald newsroom in Everett. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Detroit-original Jet’s Pizza lands in WA with thick-crust pies and more

The national chain’s Lynnwood joint is the first in the state. The pizza is tasty — hot or cold. And it makes good date food.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.