Welcome to Staging Shakespeare!Last summer I directed my first play, Much Ado About Nothing, with a cast of 26 students, ages 10-18. I still have not been able to fully express what a meaningful...

Welcome to Staging Shakespeare!

Last summer I directed my first play, Much Ado About Nothing, with a cast of 26 students, ages 10-18. I still have not been able to fully express what a meaningful experience it was, not just for myself but for the students and families involved. It was simply an amazing time and one that opened my eyes to the possibilities for teaching Shakespeare and drama, and what it can mean for kids of all ages.

Even if you have no experience with drama or staging Shakespeare, I hope you'll join the group and start kicking around ideas with us...I had ZERO experience last summer, either with directing in general or with directing Shakespeare, and learned a TON by reading great books, which I can recommend to the group. And, of course, I learned a great deal through trial and error! :)

Even if you have no interest in staging a whole play, I'd like to share ideas for incorporating drama into the classroom, which can help bring these wonderful works to life for kids of all ages!

Remember..."All the world's a stage"! :)

Expert Answers
malibrarian eNotes educator| Certified Educator

How exciting! Do you know yet what play you're going to do?

Here was our timeline last year:

1.  First week of May - auditions (1 afternoon)
2.  Third week of May - rehearsals began when school was out; initially, we had two rehearsals/week, 3 hours per rehearsal
3.  Met with costume and set designers in May to discuss what I was looking for and get their input; began buying fabric and patterns the first part of June to get costumes started; got actors' measurements first part of June, too
4.  During initial rehearsals, we spent a lot of time scanning the text - figuring out rhyme and meter - defining words using a great book by Crystal called "Shakespeare's Words," which really helped the kids understand what they were memorizing and saying. We also worked on projecting exercises as our play was outdoors and they needed to get used to getting their voices out there.
5. In July we went to 3 rehearsals per week and I made them be off-book around the middle of July. We began having costume fittings in July, too. Also because "Much Ado" has a masked ball scene, I had a choreographer come in and teach Italian court dances to the kids, all of which got started in July.
6. This all continued through August. School started the day after Labor Day weekend; then we had dress rehearsals that weekend after school started (September 8-9), and our two performances September 10-11.

I'll write more in another, letting you know what I'm changing this year! :)

malibrarian eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Okay, so in my previous post I gave a timeline of four months, which I think was good for our first year as I had pretty much no clue what I was doing.  However, I also know that if you give kids that long to memorize their lines, they will take that long to get them memorized...and they really didn't need all summer to do it.  So, here is what I'm doing this year:

1. Right now our Thursday afterschool Shakespeare Reading Group is reading "The Taming of the Shrew," which we are doing this summer. This is giving the students a chance to really understand the play and get used to the language, as well as possibly see which parts they might like to audition for.
2. I am having auditions March 4th and 5th. This will give my costume designer a chance to start measuring and sewing in the spring, rather than waiting for summer.
3. We get out of school on May 16th. The next week I'm giving everyone off to rest and get bored at home, so we'll start rehearsals on May 26th, 2x per week, 3 hours per rehearsal.
4. Sometime middle to end of June, they'll need to be off-book, and we'll go to rehearsals 3x per week, 3 hours each rehearsal.
5. Our performances are scheduled for July 29-31, with a possible Saturday matinee on August 2.

After last summer, I realized that we didn't need four months to do this. With preparation in advance in the spring (costume, set design, etc.), I don't have to use up everyone's entire summer vacation.

Let me know if you have any questions! :)

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Here is a question for you - how did you select your Shakespeare play? It is interesting that the majority of schools seem to stage comedies rather than tragedies - is this true in your experience too? Or do comedies allow more "fun" and a lighter approach to some of the deeper and more profound themes and speeches in tragedies?

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

My first play was Romeo and Juliet.  I chose it at first because I had it.  I was able to get free copies from Scholastic Book Club points.  I all the students in my English classes, some in small and some in large parts.  We used a stage, but no lighting and sound effects- only curtain.  It was difficult but a lot of fun.

brendawm eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am going to begin a drama club at my charter school with the intention of putting on a play sometime before June.  What was your timeline for doing your play.  I would love any advice you could offer.   Brendawm

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