Create a Performance Playbill

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!

Create a Performance Playbill was originally published on Shakespeare for Kids Books

Ophelia’s Crazy Song

Did you know Ophelia actually sings a lunacy song in Hamlet?  It’s sprinkled throughout the act, but here’s the basic text. Enjoy!

Ophelia crazy 1

Crazy Ophelia – from O’my Theater’s production of my Hamlet for Kids


How should I your true love know

From another one?

By his cockle hat and staff,

And his sandal shoon.

He is dead and gone, lady,

He is dead and gone,

At his head a grass-green turf,

At his heels a stone.

Ophelia crazy 2Larded all with sweet flowers,

Which bewept to the ground did not go

With true-love showers.

Tomorrow is Saint Valentine’s day,

All in the morning betime,

And I a maid at your window,

To be your Valentine.

Then up he rose, and donned his clothes,

And dupped the chamber door.

Let in the maid that out a maid

Never departed more.

By Gis and by Saint Charity,

Alack, and fie, for shame!

Young men will do ’t, if they come to ’t.

By Cock, they are to blame.

Quoth she, “Before you tumbled me,

You promised me to wed.”

He answers,

“So would I ha’ done, by yonder sun,

An thou hadst not come to my bed.”

They bore him barefaced on the bier,

Hey, non nonny, nonny, hey, nonny,

And in his grave rained many a tear.

And will he not come again?

And will he not come again?

No, no, he is dead,

Go to thy deathbed.

He never will come again.

His beard was as white as snow,

All flaxen was his poll.

He is gone, he is gone,

And we cast away moan,

God ha’ mercy on his soul.—

Ophelia’s Crazy Song was originally published on Shakespeare for Kids Books

Sneak Peek at Shakespeare for Kids Books

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!

Sneak Peek at Shakespeare for Kids books

Sneak Peek at Shakespeare for Kids Books was originally published on Shakespeare for Kids Books

Skype Classroom Visits

As many of you know, I visit classrooms and do an engaging, interactive, “Intro to Shakespeare” experience.  However, some locations are a bit too far to get to, for example, Wales, England.  I use that example, as I have recently conducted a Skype call with a group of kids from Wales! Other than having to get up at 5am my time, it was an incredible experience!  All the kids had their questions ready and in-hand and my face was up on the big-screen for all to see!  It was fun, as the questions could be about anything. So, of the 20 or so questions I answered, a few were about Shakespeare (they just read and performed my Tempest for Kids), and even some about book writing, but, there were also questions about my pets (yes, I have a fish named Monster!), and many around legos!

See the video below for a quick view of the Skype call.

All-in-all, it was a great experience for myself, the kids, and the teacher!

If you would like to connect via Skype, please email me! brendan @ PlayingWithPlays.com

YouTube Preview Image

Skype Classroom Visits was originally published on Shakespeare for Kids Books

Classroom Visits – Intro to Shakespeare

Over the years, I have done many classroom visits.  It’s such a wonderful experience for me, the kids, and the teacher.  It’s a quick 45-55 minutes visit, that consists of the following:

  • 2-3 minutes about me and Shakespeare, quick and simple
  • 5-9 minute solo TOTALLY interactive one-man show retelling one play (i.e. Macbeth or Hamlet or check out some videos below!)
    • Typically, I pull kids out of the audience and have them say lines or get killed during the performance!
  • Then we have them do their “auditions” (mine are COMPLETELY different than typical auditions)
    • It starts with everyone lining up and doing their best “death” (remember, this is melodramatic Shakespeare and most kids LOVE to die on stage!)
    • Then, I have every give me their best scream! (they just saw a dead body, it’s only logical!)
    • Lastly, I have everyone line up and give me their best evil laugh or witches cackle.  I first start off with teaching them how to do a basic evil laugh (Muwahahaha!!! Using their entire body in the process)
  • Lastly, we do an Shakespeare Insult-a-thon and crown an insult champion!
    • A few days before, the class reviews and writes down various Shakespeare insults from the insult generator.
    • Have them practice on each other (or even their parents and siblings!)
    • Then we meet and start the Insult-a-thon.  Kids love it!
  • At that point, it’s a Q&A about whatever Shakespeare title they are reviewing, Shakespeare, or even book writing and publishing.

You can engage your class this way on a first day of Shakespeare, or , if you are interested in learning more about me coming in for a classroom visit, you can email me at brendan at PlayingWithPlays.com

One other note, the typical grades that I visit are 5th through 7th, they are typically the most engaging when it comes to all the hands-on activities that we do!

Have fun engaging kids with Shakespeare!!!

YouTube Preview Image

YouTube Preview Image

Classroom Visits – Intro to Shakespeare was originally published on Shakespeare for Kids Books

Shakespeare for Special Needs

I have worked and talked with many teachers that have used my books to help kids with special needs.  As well, I have done many plays with kids with special needs, and the change and awareness that is created during the process is amazing!  Knowing this, I wanted to share an idea that I just received from a teacher.  Here is what she wrote:

I used your Midsummer Night’s Dream for Kids 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 one 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.

A clever use of my books, or plays in general, to get special needs kids more engaged in reading! Just a lesson idea from a teacher in the world. I hope this helps, as well as I’m always here to help if you need it, just reach out to me!

Keep having fun out there!

Shakespeare for Special Needs was originally published on Shakespeare for Kids Books

Monks and Grim Reaper Cape Costume – Simple

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!

cape from oliver twist for kids

Monks and Grim Reaper Cape Costume – Simple was originally published on Shakespeare for Kids Books

Portable Sides for Easy Stage Productions Anywhere!

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
  • Drill bit – 1/8th inch for pilot holes for screws
  • PVC pipe cutter

Steps:

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.

Top cross bar

Figure 1 – Square up the ends

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.

drilling a pilot hole

Figure 2 – pilot hole

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.

elbow assembly for sides

Figure 3 – adding the screw

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.

Figure 4 - measure and cut

Figure 4 – measure and cut

Figure 5 - cut

Figure 5 – cut

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.

Figure 6 - elbow and T assembly

Figure 6 – elbow and T assembly

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.

Figure 7 - bottom bar assembly

Figure 7 – bottom bar assembly

11) Add the last 2 screws to the bottom assembly and you have all your pieces done! See figure 8.

Figure 8 - Bottom assembled

Figure 8 – Bottom assembled

12) Now, assemble all the pieces and it should look a little something like figure 9!

Figure 9 - complete assembly

Figure 9 – complete assembly

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.

Figure 10 - adding the zipties

Figure 10 – adding the zipties

Figure 11 - Ziptie locations

Figure 11 – Ziptie locations

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.

Figure 12 - Show time!

Figure 12 – Show time!

Portable Sides for Easy Stage Productions Anywhere! was originally published on Shakespeare for Kids Books

Crystal Ball for Caesar – Magic 8-ball!

Soothsayer's magic 8-ball

Soothsayer and Caesar

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!

Enjoy!magic 8-ball

Crystal Ball for Caesar – Magic 8-ball! was originally published on Shakespeare for Kids Books

Simple and Free Caesar Costumes – Toga!

Caesar togas bed sheets

Et tu, Brute?!

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!)

shakespeare bed sheets

A bag of bed sheets

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!

 

the cast in toga bed sheets

Julius Caesar cast

toga bed sheets

Pompey and his minions

Caesar's ghost costume bed sheets

Go away, Caesar’s ghost!

Simple and Free Caesar Costumes – Toga! was originally published on Shakespeare for Kids Books