Part 8 of the 12 part series: Why Drama is so important in School. – EMPATHY EMPATHY defined: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Empathy is something that we as parents and educators try to instill in our kids from a very early age. Understanding what another person is going through or feeling can…
This is a short post about an activity you can do with your kids as you get ready for the show. As many of us directors know, there are an endless number of things you can do to prepare for the performance. IN NO WAY, am I suggesting that you need to do a lot of things to have a successful performance. ( I typically do very few and the kids still have a blast!) However, in many cases, there are extra things that you and/or your kids will want to do.
One of those fun and creative things is to create a brochure for the show. Some people call this a playbill. And one such homeschool mom created a wonderful playbill for her parents during their performance of our version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Kids. As you can see from the photo, they did a wonderful job!
This is a great homework or extracurricular activity for the kids. Someone can figure out how to lay this out on the computer, other’s get to draw for cover and back cover, and others get to print and assemble them together. It’s another hands-on learning experience.
Well, if you do this for your next play, please, let us know and send some photos!
This is a quick post about a couple ideas that are awesome, and all credit goes to an amazing homeschool mom, Amy.
Recently Amy directed her small homeschool co-op in one of our plays, The Tempest for Kids. In doing so, she decided to perform it in their backyard, inspired by our own Backyard Shakespeare. That being said, she quickly renamed it, BackBARD Shakespeare… clever! But, her ideas did not stop there, no. Her kids and she came up with a couple other brilliant ideas that I think many of you directors of creative drama students could use.
First, the kids did a commercial halfway through the show. How awesome is that? Part of their homework was to create a “Shakespearean” commercial, and plan, write, block, and direct it. Brilliant for kids who either have smaller roles or need a bit more to keep them occupied and challenged.
Second. Create an epilogue. Now, some of Shakespeare’s plays already have an epilogue, but many do not. With The Tempest, there was none and the kids were very curious about what was going to happen when (spoiler alert) the gang got off the island and Miranda and Ferdinand got married! So, again, the kids wrote and directed their own piece and it turns out that they had a baby! (cut to one of the small homeschool siblings now coming on stage as their “son”)
Too cute and a classic great use of education! Bravo! Well done Amy! I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the next show!
Over the years, I have taught EVERY single one of our plays, most of them multiple times, and some of them at least 20 times…. (Hamlet, Midsummer, R&J, Caesar, Macbeth…). But, one of the best tools for me to use is the Character Line Quantities spreadsheet to help me with casting.
A teacher asked me recently, “why don’t you share that?” Which I gladly did. But it hit me, why don’t I share this with EVERYONE?
There’s nothing like casting a play. Trying to figure out dynamics of who can synergize with who; what characters will pull the most out of which kids; more seasoned kids get more lines; a kid’s last show of their school career – do they get the lead? Did I give too many lines to a novice actor?
That last question sometimes worries me… as some parts may seem small (Friar Lawrence in R&J) Yet are one of the bigger parts. (2nd most lines in that play) And, in many of our plays, many actors get 2 or even 3 parts to play. (Did I give too many lines with multiple parts?)
So, a while back, I created and Character Line Quantities sheet that helps me cast my shows. Well, the main reason I never shared it is that it’s just a simple spreadsheet and not fancy, and NOT completely filled out. Well, that’s not a good reason. So, see the link here to have access to it. And if you have any questions, let me know!
Each play has its own tab on the bottom. If you don’t see a play, scroll to the left and right.
Backyard Shakespeare. What is that, you may ask. Well, it’s a very ingenious and creative way to engage homeschooled kids with Shakespeare, education, language arts, drama, and most importantly, fun!
I recently had the privilege to teach a group of 7 kids Playing With Plays The Tempest for Kids and we had a BLAST! Best part, we did it in the backyard of a house of one of the homeschooling families. Their deck was a natural stage. So, a few costumes, a few scripts, a few rehearsals, and BAM! We’ve got a fun, melodramatic Shakespeare play performing in the backyard!
I’ve seen this done in the past with many of my plays, but this was the first time I got to do it. The best part, you can do a performance ANYWHERE! The parents bring a blanket or lawn chairs, and you have an instant theater!
Traveling soon and have kids? Well then, there is no better time to stop by a Shakespeare Festival. Family trips can be mundane and boring on the road, However, there are great ways to mix this up. You can play road games, you can stop by random bizarre sites along the way like a giant blue ox or motels made out of teepees or my favorite, Ted Drewes Frozen Custard (BEST. ICE CREAM. EVER). Or you can stop somewhere fabulous for some great Shakespeare! Guess what!? In most cities you can find great Shakespeare Festivals pretty easily!
Educators always say, and I’m sure you have heard this before, the best way to understand Shakespeare is to see Shakespeare PERFORMED (and even more so, perform it yourself!). Well, across the country and around the world there are festivals literally everywhere. The coolest part are the different venues. Some are in replica Globe Theaters: (San Diego, Ashland, Utah) others are in a park, others set on a lake, and so on… beautiful venues for beautiful theater.
I have composed a list of Shakespeare Festivals to make it easy to find a show around the globe while you’re on the road!
So the next road trip you are on, I expect to see a great photo of you and your family with the Shakespeare Festival you just visited!
If you run or are part of a Shakespeare Festival and you are not listed on my Shakespeare festival page, please let me know and I will be sure to add your organization.
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.
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!
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…
I recently coached a parent who was running an after-school program, and she asked me how I do the “death auditions” for my plays. It made me realize that I haven’t done a simple quick layout of my first day for a while, so, here it is: 1) I do a 5-8 minute, melodramatic solo performance…