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.
I received an email a few weeks ago from a teacher using my books/plays for her students because she wanted them to improve their skills in reading comprehension. She wrote the following to me:
“I used your Midsummer Night’s Dream as reading material. I couldn’t get my high school special ed students to reread anything. Their thinking was, “I have already read that once and do not need to repeat.” But, by introducing this as a play that needed to be word-perfect and beginning on page 1 each day, they were willing to participate. They were rehearsing for a show, not simply earning a grade for the reading class. Your materials made all the difference. Most important, reading skills improved.”
— LaVelle Brown, Special Ed teacher
Many schools are missing or losing performing arts classes due to budget cuts. I’m writing a 12-part piece about why we do drama in school, where I present valuable reasons why we need theater in our education systems and why it’s critical to continue supporting it.
One of these reasons is COMPREHENSION. I’ve had a number of teachers and parents use my books or enroll their child in my classes to boost their understanding of language. Drama is amazing for this development!
Think about it:
Do kids only read a passage once in class? Typically, yes. Therefore, perform a play!
Participating in a play or a skit allows students to read the passages multiple times. By learning their lines they support their growth in comprehension.
Do you want kids to understand the storyline, theme, or see the “big picture”? Be in a performance!
We rehearse dozens of times before we actually perform on stage or in front of an audience. Didn’t get the concept on the first pass… how about the 30th? Yep, comprehension increases with every pass through the material.
Do you want to learn about a time in history? Do a play!
Understanding the Roman empire? Make an appearance in Julius Caesar.
Through rehearsals, performances, costume creation and design, comprehension is assimilated often without the participants even realizing it.
From a purely scientific perspective, repetitive review of a script creates new neuro-pathways in the brain, which leads to long-term comprehension skills. Isn’t that one of our goals as teachers, to help improve the brain?
It’s more than just “doing a play”, it’s about creating a more robust child that will make a difference in our future.
I would love to hear your thoughts about drama in school!