When my dear friend Ana suggested some years ago that we should extend my Shakespeare reading class into the realm of actual theater, I admit, I was dubious. It sounded too large-scale, too daunting, too serious! For starters, my eldest student was 15, and the majority were eighth and ninth graders, with a few younger ones thrown in. It seemed like one of those ideas we all have, the “pie in the sky, dream that would never work” ideas…and yet, somehow, it was so tempting to give it a shot. We did.
We decided to perform A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as it was fun, familiar, accessible, and short(ish). Our stage was Ana’s backyard acreage, with an outbuilding as backstage. Our costumes were homemade and improvisational. Our scripts were the Dover thrift editions of the play (which have been a real boon to us, as there is no way we could find a full length script at an equivalently affordable price).
We also decided to do our play practice somewhat on the model of our local homeschool group’s drama camp: campers were assigned their lines six weeks or so in advance, and came to the week-long camp with their lines (mostly) memorized. We worked on Shakespeare for one week, every afternoon from 1pm till 8pm, with a dinner break, and performed on Saturday evening to an attentive audience of relatives and friends.
Fabulous. It was nothing short of fabulous. Truly, it stands as a testament to the capacity of teens to succeed at something most people, of any age, would be to afraid to consider, much less attempt! We put on a whole Elizabethan play, uncut, with teen actors, inside of one week. It felt miraculous, (perhaps more so to me than to them!) that something so untested could come off so well.
Those same kids, nearly all of whom are now graduates, were still reminiscing about “our first year” and how wonderful it was when I saw them this summer. It is one of their most treasured memories. And this, this is why we homeschool, guys. This is the kind of opportunity we can provide for our kids, for whom the sky is honestly the limit because they don’t carry the baggage of worry that they’ll fail, socially or otherwise. It is the embodiment of the old saw about “that which is worth doing is worth doing badly,” as that was the risk they ran and passed right over, banners waving.
Since that first Midsummer year, we have performed four more plays: Much Ado About Nothing, Macbeth, The Tempest, and King Lear. All have been wonderful, the kids’ acting superb. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Try it–take the leap onto the stage!
Postscript: link to the first year’s play here. From there, you can hunt around on the Shakespeare Camp tab and see other photos and descriptions. Enjoy!
Caitilin Fiona is a homeschooling mother of six children, ranging from sixteen year old twins down to a five year old. Her particular interests in the homeschool universe include teaching Latin, Shakespeare, and Great Books. Outside of homeschooling, her interests include language and languages, theology, cookery and nutrition, movies, and fooling around, er, researching on the Internet.