Shakespeare on the Playground: Part 2
Last year, I asked 4th grade teacher Vikki Cole to write a blog post about her “Shakespeare on the Playground” creation. Over the last two years, she has done an after school club for interested 4th and 5th grade students focusing on the famous works of Shakespeare. She guides them through a specific literary work, and then the students act out this work in a mini play. The plays are rehearsed to be performed in the open air on our playground (our own version of the Globe Theater!), but the weather does not always cooperate. In the post below, Mrs. Cole talks about the fall production that was performed this week. I so appreciate that our faculty is dedicated teachers like Mrs. Cole, who strive to provide new experiences for our students.
“What if I mess up?” a student wailed.
It was two minutes until show time, and I was talking nine, nervous 9 and 10-year-old “players” off the proverbial edge of panic. Huddled just offstage, they were a mishmash of wings, fake mustaches, velvet flat caps, and ivy crowns - the absolute best the church’s wardrobe closet offered for their diminutive sizes.
“Someone will mess up,” I stated calmly. “We’ve even practiced that. We’ve got this!” I assured my tiny troupe.
Alas, the fall 2018 BBS production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream did NOT go off without a hitch, just as predicted. Oberon and Puck had a conversation in Act Two, which wasn’t supposed to occur until Act Four. There were a few mispronounced words. A two-ton truck metaphorically ran over a couple of Shakespeare’s original lines. And one player ran on stage at the wrong time, paused, and loudly declared, “I’m not supposed to be here right now!” before dashing away.
However, the performance was a hit in its own topsy-turvy, uniquely creative way. These young actors showed up despite their fears. They delivered their lines and “caught” each other when necessary. They laughed with the audience, and one another. They kept going when something went wrong.
Though I boast of no previous theatre experience, I am now convinced of the absolute necessity of such activities within an elementary school program. Such productions provide an excellent platform from which children can gain hands-on experience in collaboration and grit.
Actually, there was little chance of this elementary performance becoming a complete fail. After all, the audience was primarily composed of parents and grandparents, shoe-ins for standing ovations and catcalls of praise. Yet, even without such a generous audience, the show would have still been a success. These children acted their hearts out. They gave it their all and left it on the stage for our utter enjoyment. They showed courage, perseverance, dedication, and humor. I have never been prouder of a group of people.