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Posts Tagged ‘Children’s Shakespeare Festival’

Once a year, for a wonderful week, we throw open the doors of Folger Theatre and invite elementary children, grades three through six, to share Shakespeare. Our stage has been full of Puck, Oberon, Titania, Nick Bottom, Peter Quince, Romeo, Juliet, Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, Hamlet, King Lear and his daughters.

These young students are a constant inspiration with their enthusiasm for Shakespeare’s language, their commitment to Shakespeare’s ideas, and their embodiment of Shakespeare’s stories in their performances. They embrace the experience of performing Shakespeare—getting the words in their mouths and making it their own.

Students shared with us, the audience members, the sweetness of Romeo and Juliet falling in love and the pain of their loss when forbidden love was denied. They shared the fun of Helena, Hermia, Demetrius, and Lysander searching for each other through the woods. They shared the tragedy of King Lear as he realizes his older daughters might have professed their love, but they don’t really love him. They shared the confusion of Hamlet as he tries to work through the chaos of his life.

 

Children's Shakespeare Festival 2013

Children’s Shakespeare Festival 2013

During this festival week, we see in action what we know so well: performing Shakespeare gives students the opportunity to use language in ways that are exciting and empowering.

Children and Shakespeare: a winning combination!

 

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There may be snow on the ground, but Spring is in the air at the Folger.  As the Cherry Blossoms in Washington prepare to bloom, so do our local budding Bards as they prepare for the student festivals right around the corner. While the high school students will stomp the boards in just a couple of weeks at our annual Secondary School Festival, their younger comrades in the elementary grades will give them a run for their money in mid-May during our 34th Annual Children’s Festival. The work of all of these youngsters in their grappling of the text, their connections to the intricate characters and relationships in Shakespeare’s plays is sometimes inconceivable and without a doubt exciting.

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On the heels of our Children’s Festival is the equally exciting Conference on Teaching Shakespeare in the Elementary Classroom. So for all of those who would like to know what this work looks like, now is your chance to join the movement. We are excited to host both local and national educators as we experience the incredible work being done with primary level students and Shakespeare.

As we share our stories, we’ll also experience and hear the stories behind two newly published books that should be welcomed additions to your Shakespeare for kids library.

Internationally acclaimed playwright Ken Ludwig (Lend Me a Tenor, Crazy for You) joins us as our keynote speaker. Adding author to his long list of accomplishments, Ken will talk and give a demonstration from his newly published book How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare (available June 11). We’ll also be joined by Daeshin Kim, writer and composer of the picture book and CD, A Horse with Wings: Songs for Children Sung by Characters from Shakespeare. Hear about Daeshin’s journey to re-creating the stories of Shakespeare’s characters through music and the voice of a child.

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To see a full list of our conference presenters and to register, check out http://www.folger.edu/eec.

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Students perform The Tempest for the 2010 Children’s Festival

In the age of  more and more Tinkerbell movies(yes there’s another one coming soon), one can understand an elementary educator’s propensity towards producing A Midsummer Night’s Dream with their students. Young girls can be quite drawn to the idea of putting on those fairy wings and singing a sweet lullaby to their Queen. Budding young actors love the idea of strutting their stuff as mechanicals preparing a play within the play. And with the hijinx that ensue between Oberon, Puck and the lovers, there is no end to the potential for side-splitting laughs with the children. Also, from a teacher’s standpoint the language is likely far clearer and easier to teach than other Shakespeare works.

However. Midsummer is not the only play that can be made suitable for performance by elementary students! I suggest that young troupes may dare to take on plays with other thematic elements that might be appealing to elementary children.  Why not tap into the Harry Potter streak and throw a little Tempest into the mix? Plenty of  potential for casting would be wizards, sprites and strange creatures there. What about the longing for power and glory and the sheer menace in Macbeth or Richard III? Betrayal, treachery, really cool sword fights, hello? Kids can shock you with their ability to handle the complexities of Hamlet.

Don’t want to go to that dark place with your students? The antics in Twelfth Night, As You Like It or Comedy of Errors can also be a pleasant departure from the norm. Mistaken identity and genderbending are always a hit!

What do you think? Should we challenge ourselves before we send another fairy traipsing across the stage? Or when working with young students is it best to go with a play somewhat less challenging, more familiar and that has more party store accessible costuming choices?

Should you decide to perform something other than Midsummer with your younger students this year, here’s a movie trailer sure to satisfy your Fairie sweet tooth:

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