Many people ask to see a sample of my books. So, I finally did it… here is the link to see a small excerpt from each and every title that I have. Let me know if you have any questions!
So, I recently directed Oliver Twist for Kids and am about to direct A Christmas Carol for Kids. In doing so, I have come across a great costume that is both inexpensive and very effective as a fun kids cape to wear. As you may or may not know, there is a creepy villain, that is constantly referred to as the caped guy, in Oliver Twist named Monks. (Think of the villain from Meet The Robinsons). As well, there is the fourth ghost in A Christmas Carol that is the Grim Reaper. Both these characters can easily wear the same, simple, costume. Add a mustache for Monks and a staff for the Grim Reaper and bamm! You are good to go! (This is also a great cape for use with Macbeth for Kids for the “Murderer” character!)
I spent quite some time looking through all the different capes/cloaks/hooded sheets on Amazon until I found the right size, look, length, and price that works!
It’s a simple black hooded cloak with a crushed velvet finish to make it look really cool. The best part is that the kids LOVE wearing it (and for less than $20!) Half the time they’re acting like Darth Vader when wearing it off stage, but hey, that’s the fun of being an actor, right? Using the imagination!
Here is the link to Amazon for the Cape. Have a great performance and see you on the stage!
So, I teach Shakespeare for Kids classes all over the place, and most venues I teach at do not come with stages. I’ve performed in gyms, dance rooms, dojos, boyscout meeting areas, and classrooms. One thing is consistent, I need a place for the actors to go “off-stage”. That is why I created easy-to-assemble sides, built to travel and make an instant performance space!
Below are the simple instructions for the inexpensive and portable sides. Once created, these sides take about 10 minutes to put up and take down, which makes them GREAT for quick performances like Playing With Plays books.
Below are the parts you will need to make ONE side. I use 4, two per side of my “stage” area. You can get all the parts, except the drapes, at a hardware store. The curtains you can find at places like Bed, Bath & Beyond, Target, or Walmart. All in all, each side is no more than $10-15.
- Sharpie (1)
- Zipties (black) (4)
- Drywall screws 1″ (8)
- 1/2″ PVC 90° slip to slip elbows (4)
- 1/2″ PVC 4-way slip-fit Ts (2)
- Black window curtain with loop holes to hang 4′ wide x 6′ long (1)
- 10′ sticks of 1/2″ PVC pipe, schedule 40 (3)
- Drill bit – 1/8th inch for pilot holes for screws
- PVC pipe cutter
1) Start with (3) 10′ sticks of 1/2 inch PVC pipe. Cut each at 6 feet which will leave you 2 pieces a 6′ and 4′ length. Put 2 of the 6 foot sticks off to the side, those are done and do not need any more work.
2) Take 2 of the 4′ sticks and cut them in half. This will yield (4) 2′ PVC pieces. These are the base stabilizers, put these on the side, those are done and do not need any more work. You should have (1) 6′ piece and (1) 4′ piece left.
3) Cut the 6′ piece down to a 4′ piece. You will now have (2) 4′ pieces and (1) 2′ piece. Discard the 2′ piece, it is no longer needed.
4) TOP CROSS BAR – Take (1) 4′ piece and put (1) 90° elbow on each end. Rotate and push in as far as possible. We are not taking these apart again, so, make sure they are in good and snug.
5) On a flat surface, make sure that the TOP CROSS BAR can sit on the elbows flat on the surface. We need to make sure this is square before we move forward. See figure 1.
6) Once the elbows are aligned and square on the TOP CROSS BAR, then turn it over and drill a pilot hole on the inside bend, for our screw. See figure 2.
7) Screw the 1″ drywall screw into each side. This locks the pole and elbow into place so it can not rotate in the future. See figure 3. (Sides can rotate and fall down if they are not secured by the screw) Put the top cross bar aside, you are done with this piece.
8) BOTTOM CROSS BAR – Very similar to the top cross bar, but we are including 2 T’s in here. First, take the 4′ stick of PVC and measure and mark 3.5″ and 4.5″ from each end. Cut the PVC at these markings using the PVC pipe cutter. See figures 4 & 5. You should have 5 pieces left: (2) 3.5″ pieces (2) 1″ pieces and (1) 39″ piece. Please note, dimensions will not be perfect, and they don’t need to be, as PVC is flexible.
9) Discard the 1″ pieces. Then, assemble the elbow and T’s as seen in figure 6 using the 3.5″ pieces. Be sure to square up and align the 90° elbows AND the T’s. Drill the pilot holes and add the 1″ drywall screws as shown. You should now have 2 pieces assembled that look like figure 6.
10) Insert the long pipe between the two new pieces we just made. Be sure to square the 90° elbows. Similar to what we did during step 5. Once they are square, drill the pilot holes on both sides. See figure 7.
11) Add the last 2 screws to the bottom assembly and you have all your pieces done! See figure 8.
12) Now, assemble all the pieces and it should look a little something like figure 9!
13) I add two holes on both sides of the curtains with a zip-tie in each. It keeps the curtains taunt during the show, as kids ALWAYS want to stick their heads through to see what the audience is doing! See figure 10.
14) Now you are ready for a show! Enjoy! Oh, and during the shows, I tape two of the poles together to create one large 8-foot wide panel for the kids to go “back stage”. See figure 12.
I work with dozens and dozens of kids every year on memorizing lines and learning blocking while directing and teaching my Shakespeare for Kids plays. There’s a technique that I learned from another one of my instructors, Angi, about script highlighting that I want to share with you. Essentially, many of these kids have never been taught how to highlight or what basic blocking and stage directions are. So, to make it easy to teach these new kids, I’ve created a little saying for the kids to catch on to: IF IT’S YELLOW, IT’S WHAT YOU KNOW; IF IT’S BLUE, IT’S WHAT YOU DO.
All I do now is hand out blue and yellow highlighters, and explain, “If it’s yellow, it’s what you know; if it’s blue, it’s what you do” and then proceed to script highlighting. I demonstrate that their speaking lines are highlighted yellow, and their stage directions, any thing in parentheses, blue. This is a visualization technique to help the kids understand what to do and when to do it.
To the right is an example of script highlighting that I teach the kids. This is my son’s script. By the way, fun challenge, which play is this one? You can purchase all blue or yellow boxes of highlighters at Amazon:
So, I always have fun and do my best to work the laughs for the audience in my melodramatic Shakespeare for Kids plays. That’s certainly true with my performance of Julius Caesar for Kids! I used one specific prop to get some laughs. The Magic 8 Ball! (find it here on Amazon) That’s right, the soothsayer came out to warn Caesar about the “Ides of March” and then pulled out the Magic 8-ball to prove it so! The audience loved it, and, more importantly, the kids loved using it! Fun for all!
Two of my Shakespeare for Kids books, Julius Caesar and Hamlet, have the need for some very simple costume material: bed sheets for toga robes. All those Roman kids wear togas and Hamlet’s dad is, of course, a ghost. Both are very simple to costume up for the stage, just get some bed sheets. However, even the cheapest bed sheets are about $4-5 a piece… too pricey for my blood. But, there is a GREAT and inexpensive solution, your local hotel. (see below for some fun photos)
All hotels go through bed sheets all the time, a simple cut or stain and they toss them out. This is where we come in. Just ask if they have some old sheets you can have and they will most likely fill a bag’s worth for you! Easy-peasy! (and most importantly, free!)
Now, just poke two eye-holes for the ghost. As for the Romans, simply tie them in a knot on their shoulder, put a gold rope around their waist, presto-chango, done! (be sure they wear shorts and a t-shirt, this is a kid-friendly show you know!)
As for the golden rope, yep, I’ve done the work for you, you can find that here on Amazon! At 18 yards in length, it’s enough for about 8-10 kids.
See you on the stage!
So, I recently did the play, Treasure Island for Kids, and it was an absolute blast. However, when it came to costumes, those were relatively easy, until… Long John Silver. How do I show a wooden leg on a kid, on stage? I can’t have him hoping around the entire time, bound to cause tripping issues. I can’t…
Ok, I just got these REALLY cool Shakespeare tattoos, and the kids are LOVING them! Several people have asked where they can get some, so I’ve put them on my website for you to buy if you want for your kids! Enjoy! OR I’ll send them free with any books you purchase!!!
Ok, my version of Macbeth for Kids is funny, but if you have a spare 3 minutes, this is an absolutely funny and fantastic view of Macbeth and Macduff arguing over whether Macduff was actually “born” or not! Great stuff by Timothy McSweeney:
(Macbeth and Macduff are fencing in front of a castle.)
MACBETH: Macduff! Let fall thy blade on vulnerable crests. I bear a charmed life, which must not yield to one of woman born.
MACDUFF: Despair thy charm! Macduff was from his mother’s womb untimely ripped.
(They stop sword fighting.)
MACDUFF: I was extracted surgically, in an operation.
MACBETH: Okay, but thou wast still born, right?
MACDUFF: No. Untimely ripped.
MACBETH: Okay, but after thou wast ripped, thou wast of woman born.
MACDUFF: I don’t know…
In my most recent direction of my Hamlet for Kids there came the moment when the young actor comes on stage and says the line, “Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him. When I was a kid, he was the jester, the funniest guy I knew.” And the play moves on… but, this one kid, as he was going through rehearsing in many different ways, stumbled on saying it as “Yo, Rick” and his first improv was around, “Who is this Rick guy?” But, he settled for going with the break dancer avenue, as he put it, “the best breakdancer I ever knew…” Well, see for your self: