The Tempest Thunder Sound

I have directed Shakespeare’s Tempest for Kids at least 6 different times, and the costumes and kids always change. But, one thing is consistent, the THUNDER TUBE! I use this great drum thunder tube by REMO to make all the thunder sounds during the play. The kids LOVE it… so much that they want to…

The Tempest Thunder Sound was originally published on Shakespeare for Kids Books

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Family Reunion Readers Theater

Readers Theater is always a fun time, and even more so with my melodramatic stories which are short and funny. But, they are even funnier with a family reunion. As we all know who the hams are in our families, don’t we?

This past holiday season, when our family came together for Thanksgiving as well as Christmas, we did a readers theater three different times (it’s officially a family tradition now!)  What a BLAST! My son made sure he was the director, and he gave out 3-4 books that we all shared. Then he made impromptu costumes that we all put on and read our parts (or multiple parts in some cases). I never thought about using my books for a large team building get-together. However, doing readers theater at a family reunion is fantastic for building new and cherished memories.family reunion

What a wonderful way to hang out and make great new memories with the family!  We performed Jungle Book for Kids two different times at Thanksgiving, and then did Treasure Island for Kids at Christmas (one would think we would do A Christmas Carol for Kids, but nooooo). This was great for all our ages, from 6 to 96!

Next year we have already planned to do Macbeth (the nieces want to be witches!) and Julius Caesar (can’t wait to kill of Uncle Louie!) What fun to do a family readers theater during our family reunion.

Another rendition a friend of mine is doing at their family reunion, since they have over 50 family members, is a family competition. They are going to break them up into random teams, and then all perform.  Best performance gets to eat first! When m
y plays are only 15 minutes, it’ goes by quick and with much laughter!

I hope you enjoy the same!

Family Reunion Readers Theater was originally published on Shakespeare for Kids Books

Violence, Kids, and Shakespeare – It’s all good…

I was chatting with another mom the other day about telling bedtime stories to kids. Her five-year-old son had asked her to tell him a story about knights with swords. Before she knew it, she found she was telling him the story of Hamlet. She went on to describe the panic she felt when she realized that there was a lot about Hamlet that maybe wasn’t so child friendly. Infidelity? Check. Insanity? Check. Fighting, poison, murder? Check. Check. Check. So, that raises the question: how appropriate are Shakespeare’s plays for kids, anyway?

If you’ve ever taught our plays, you’ll notice that kids go crazy over death scenes. They love sword play and dying as dramatically as possible onstage. So…is this something parents should be worried about? (Now mind you, we DON’T do Titus, so don’t worry about that!)

Turns out there is a lot of research about video game violence and kids, but not so much about “playing with swords” or “kids playing murderous villains.”

Lisa Zamosky’s article on WebMD has this to offer about kids playing violent games:

“Play has been linked to social and cognitive development. Through imaginary games, children learn how to control impulses, delay gratification, think symbolically, and view things from another’s perspective. Play also allows children to act out their fears and aspirations.”

I also ran across a lovely article written by Janet Field-Pickering, who is the Head of Education at the Folger Shakespeare Library. Although she was addressing exposing children to the language of Shakespeare, not the violence, I thought her sentiment was fitting:

“Children learn through playing. They learn how to interact with other people; they learn to collaborate; they learn to express themselves through language and movement.”

The key word in both of the quotes above is ‘play.’ Don’t forget, they are reading and performing ‘plays.’

Do kids need to be exposed to all of humanity’s darkness? No, of course not. Do we put in every mention of sex, drugs and rock and roll, er, I mean Baroque, mentioned in these plays? Nope. Actually, we do gloss over much of the more adult situations in the stories, not only for propriety’s sake, but for time’s sake as well.

The bottom line is that kids are smart. They understand that it’s make believe. They get that all the dying and murder and violence is all part of the story, and by acting these things out, they are learning to make sense (or make fun) of the world around them…both the world on the page and the world beneath their feet.

Violence, Kids, and Shakespeare – It’s all good… was originally published on Shakespeare for Kids Books

Performing Shakespeare – Days 2-6ish – The Formula

This is a continuation from the article “Shakespeare in a Can: Six Days With the Bard From Start to Stage.” The second installment of performing Shakespeare.

REMEMBER, this mini-Shakespeare play you are doing is NOT a perfect play. Heck, if you want to make it perfect, please don’t do it; that’s a complete waste of creativity, and the kids are chock full of creativity – let’s pull it out! I specifically reference these plays as “Melodramatic Masterpieces,” so please don’t forget the MELODRAMA piece….  It’s what gets the parents rolling in the audience and the kids coming back for more! Remember, performing Shakespeare MUST BE FUN!!!

Day 2: BLOCKING & HIGHLIGHTING

blocking 1By now you have the casted the play. So step 1 here is to highlight their lines.  I have a great little technique to get the kids all on the same page, “if it’s blue, it’s what you do” Just follow that link to see the easiest way to organize your highlighting. Step 2 is to do a read through just wherever you are (sitting at a desk, sitting on stage, on the grass outside next to a lake with ducks floating by, wherever). Once you have done your first read through, the next thing to do is start blocking. First of all, the definition of blocking, for those of you who don’t know: to plan or work out the movement of performers in a play. This is where the “F’s” come in… it is fun, frustrating, and FOREVER! Yes, the first time walking through and doing basic blocking of the play seems like forever, but don’t worry, it speeds up quickly! You will probably only get through the play maybe once, but call it a wrap and head home. HOWEVER, emphasize to the kids to start memorizing their lines (always do this, sometimes it takes a while to sink in). Also, remind them that as of Day 5, you will be “off-book” (no scripts) so, good luck.

 Day 3: MORE BLOCKING

You may get through the play only two times today. But that’s okay, the kids will have a basic idea of what they are doing and where they are going now. KEY POINT: kids will start coming up with their own ideas for their character – GO WITH IT! This is where their creative juices starting to flow. This is VERY IMPORTANT; if they feel empowered with the Bard, and start having fun with Shakespeare, they will start to embrace his work more and more (you are on your way to creating a Shakespeare monster!).

Oh yeah, and start thinking about costumes. WHAT! Costumes? Yes, costumes. This can be a major headache or really simple. I go with the really simple route myself. Hit Walmart or K-mart the day after Halloween and buy a bunch of plastic swords, renaissance type costumes, and miscellaneous fun stuff (the Witches are great fun to buy for). I typically throw everything in one or two bins and tell the kids to have at it. They spend about 20 minutes trying on costumes and seeing if they can make things fit, it’s great fun! But don’t do this piece until Day 5 (or the day before the show).

Most of the time there are at least one to two parents that can make a costume or two as well. You’ll always have those few talented moms out there who love to help! They are the BEST!

And remind the kids again… on Day 5 we are off book!

Day 4: AND MORE BLOCKING

blocking 2Now you are starting to move a little faster. Some kids know their lines, other kids don’t, but they are starting to come up with ideas whether for costumes, props, how to die on stage (with dramatic sword fighting of course!) or whatever, just go with it! Keep remembering, the entire goal here is to have fun with Shakespeare. The kids will love it, the parents will love it, and I bet ya Willy will be watching too and having a great ol’ time!

And remind them, next time we meet we are off book!

DAY 5: OFF BOOK

Yep, that’s right. These two to three run-throughs today will be a bit slow, but by the third time you go through it, most kids will be moving pretty well with their lines and starting to really have fun!

DRESS UP TIME!

Okay, pull out your two to three bins of clothes and let the kids have at it. Remember, this is NOT a perfect play. Some of the clothes will not fit perfectly (that’s what clothes pins, belts, and duct tape are for). If kids have their own stuff, let them bring it in too. They will really love doing this! (Although, I once had a kid want to bring in his own “authentic” pirate sword…well, let’s just say that didn’t happen!)

At this point, you are welcome to add more days for rehearsals. As any director will tell you, actors can ALWAYS use more rehearsals!

Day 6: DRESS REHEARSAL and PERFORMANCE.

I typically do the performance in the same time slot that I have been doing all the other group meetings and rehearsals, but it is up to you. This day starts straight away with getting into costumes. You should perform two dress rehearsals just before the big show. And at this point, just let the kids just run it with no interference. Don’t even go backstage for this, they need to learn that the world is really their stage. Just stand back and enjoy the show.

THE BIG SHOW

By this time, the audience has filed in and you are ready to go with the show. So, to break the ice, you get on stage first. Thank the kids for all their hard work, the parents for putting up with Shakespeare in their homes for so many weeks, and then stand on stage and introduce the wrong show. Set this up before hand with all of the kids yelling from backstage the correct play. i.e.: “I am proud to announce today’s play, ‘Hamlet.’” From backstage the group says, “NO!”. Then one kid wanders on stage, whispers into your ear the correct play and you proceed to change your intro to: “I am proud to announce today’s play…(asking backstage so the audience can hear) what is it again?” Then all the kids yell in unison, “MACBETH!” “Oh yeah! Right! I am proud to announce today’s performance of …‘Macbeth!’” This typically helps break nervous tension that the kids have built up.

Then stand back and watch the show!!!!

That’s about it – pretty simple, huh?  But remember, the ONE simple rule… when performing Shakespeare, MAKE IT FUN!!!

For more information or fun items like the Shakespeare Insult Generator, or an acting guide, check out the site or read some of the other blog posts.

Break a leg!

Performing Shakespeare – Days 2-6ish – The Formula was originally published on Shakespeare for Kids Books