The performance of William Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" was different than most. Scenery was made from construction paper, a makeshift stage set up in front of a Steinway piano, and the invited audience was seated on folding chairs.
Dressed in homemade, composite costumes of satin and chiffon, the actors performed flawlessly. This was not surprising, considering the entire production was arranged, produced and acted by Lisa and Carolyn Rosinsky -- ages 10 and 8, respectively.
The Clarksville Elementary School sisters are big fans of this Shakespearean play. They staged the performance as a gift for their parents -- the people who introduced the girls to their favorite work.
The Rosinsky girls have had their young lives steeped in the classics and the classical, and spend as much time as they can reading works of literature and poetry.
When not lost in the pages of a book, the girls can be found writing their own stories (including tales about a magical chair set in Elizabethan England) or playing one of the two pianos in their house.
Unlike many of their friends, Lisa and Carolyn spend little time in front of the television, except when they are enjoying videotapes of operas or classical performances.
Acknowledging that the lack of mainstream television is "a factor," Fay Rosinsky said it was "never an issue" for her daughters. "To me, it is a cultural question," the mother explained. "If a child is immersed in good culture, and if that child has the character to stand up against popular culture, then I believe they can and will be cultured."
Much of the culture in which Lisa and Carolyn have been immersed has come from their parents. Their mother is a professional cellist with the Raphael Trio, a classical and baroque group, while their physician father plays classical piano and composes. The girls "were always very musical, too," Fay Rosinsky said.
But Lisa and Carolyn are quick to point out that reading is their first love.
Lisa, a fan of the books of "Little House on the Prairie" author Laura Ingalls Wilder, along with the original Bobbsey Twins series, said she prefers works of fiction, especially those that involve magic and fantasy. Lisa said she "likes how an author can write and make me feel a certain way."
This feeling, she added, comes from the descriptions that the author writes -- not from the illustrations. "The illustrations don't matter much for me, because I already have a picture in my mind, and sometimes the illustration will be so different from what I imagine that it can get in the way of the story for me."
Imagining, she said, "is the real fun part of reading."
Carolyn said she prefers "more serious poetry, and also biographies." In fiction, she said, the characters are the key to an author's success.
"I like to see what the author thinks of for the characters in the story, and how the characters come alive when I read about them," Carolyn said. "I especially like the stories with twists to them."
Weekly visitors at the Central Branch of Howard County Library, Lisa and Carolyn are known to the library staff as two of the library's top readers. "That makes me feel proud," Lisa said.
When she was younger, Carolyn recalled, she "thought there was a rule that everyone had to go to the library every week, because that is what we always did."
Noting how quickly her daughters go through the books they borrow, Fay Rosinsky said it is getting more challenging to find good books for them. And, as they grow, finding books at a more advanced level with suitable themes also is becoming more difficult.
"But both Lisa and Carolyn have their own predilection for the good stuff, and that is just the way they are," she added. "It is great they love Shakespeare, because there is certainly an endless supply for their entire lives right there."
Lisa and Carolyn know their love of reading makes them different from most of their peers entering the fifth and third grades. Although she has been teased by some classmates for her reading skills, Lisa said, "I ignore them, because I know better."
But occasionally, she said, she will take the teasing student aside and recommend a book. She does this, Lisa said, "because I know they just don't know how much reading can add to their lives."
Pub Date: 9/27/98