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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: July ::
Re: Getting Children Interested in Shakespeare
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0641  Monday, 13 July 1998.

[1]     From:   Robert Lloyd Neblett <
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        Date:   Friday, 10 Jul 1998 11:10:50 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Re: Getting Children Interested in Shakespeare

[2]     From:   Billy Houck <
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        Date:   Friday, 10 Jul 1998 12:50:02 EDT
        Subj:   Re: Getting Children Interested in Shakespeare

[3]     From:   Cora Lee Wolfe <
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        Date:   Friday, 10 Jul 1998 13:59:32 -0600
        Subj:   Re: Getting Children Interested in Shakespeare

[4]     From:   Nancy Charlton <
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        Date:   Friday, 10 Jul 1998 18:25:48 -0700
        Subj:   Re: Children & Shakespeare

[5]     From:   Brooke Brod <
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        Date:   Sunday, 12 Jul 1998 14:13:15 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0631  Questions, Questions, Questions


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robert Lloyd Neblett <
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Date:           Friday, 10 Jul 1998 11:10:50 -0500 (CDT)
Subject:        Re: Getting Children Interested in Shakespeare

One of the most important ways of getting children interested in
Shakespeare is being interested in it ourselves as adults.  Showing a
child that, when offered an option of the newest action film or a
Shakespeare play, that the latter is not a chore for an adult to attend,
it makes a considerable impression.  We also need to give children a bit
more credit.  The first full-length Shakespeare play I saw was TITUS
ANDRONICUS on the PBS/BBC series on television.  I missed the opening
credits, so I didn't know what it was and I was transfixed by it, in all
its language (troublesome though it may be-being an early play) and
gore.  I was 10 years old.  As soon as it was over, I was hooked.  I
started watching THE SHAKESPEARE HOUR on Dallas's PBS station every day
at lunch.  Although the watered-down HBO Shakespeare animated plays are
done very well, it does cheat the child of the WHOLE experience of
sitting through two hours to find out what happens to Macbeth.  When I
was in a production of THE WINTER'S TALE a few years ago (it was a free
outside production) I remember seeing a six-year old boy in the audience
for the third night in a row.  I asked his father what was going on, out
of curiosity.  He told me that his son had seen the play on opening
night and loved it and MADE him bring the boy back two nights in a row.
He was amazed that the child understood the play on more than just a
surface level, and could tell him elements of the complex plot and
character development in the most eloquent way a six-year-old could.  I
talked with the child for twenty minutes myself and was amazed at what
the simple act of taking a child to a play (Shakespeare or otherwise)
could do.

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Billy Houck <
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Date:           Friday, 10 Jul 1998 12:50:02 EDT
Subject:        Re: Getting Children Interested in Shakespeare

>For example,  Bloom says that "Shakespeare really is beyond children",
>though he does recommend Charles and Mary Lamb's *Tales from
>Shakespeare*: "[it's] a wonderful retelling of Shakespeare, wonderfully
>faithful to the ethos and spirit of the plays, and wonderfully well
>written."

Lambs talse are also very steeply censored.

The statement that "Shakespeare is really beyond children" is certainly
not borne out by my experience. Maybe he means "Children could never
appreciate Shakespeare as well as I do" or "Children could never write a
thesis on Shakespeare as I have."

Sounds like snobbery to me.

This kind of thinking is death to art.

Billy Houck

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Cora Lee Wolfe <
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Date:           Friday, 10 Jul 1998 13:59:32 -0600
Subject:        Re: Getting Children Interested in Shakespeare

Simon Malloch says he agrees with Bloom who thinks that "Shakespeare
really is beyond children."   I heartily disagree.  I know that the Utah
festival is not well respected on this web, but we took our son there
many summers while he was in elementary school.  He loved it.  When we
didn't go during the summer of his sophomore year he said, his voice
laced with disappointment, "But go to the Shakespeare Festival every
summer!"

My 6 year old granddaughter played a wonderful Lady Capulet in a
production she and he siblings performed for us one summer.  The
highlight of the school year where I taught was Shakespearean play we
produced every spring.  Perhaps not for the audiences, but absolutely
for the actors.  They love the language, the tragedy, the double
entendres.

Shakespeare is for the child in all of us.

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Nancy Charlton <
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Date:           Friday, 10 Jul 1998 18:25:48 -0700
Subject:        Re: Children & Shakespeare

I am new to SHAKSPER and this is my first post, but I recognize many
names here from the Milton and Spenser lists.  I also subscribe to
Bonastra, a discussion of the works of Madeleine l'Engle.  She being a
most eclectic and catholic author, this list attracts a wonderfully
diverse readership.  Knowing that many of them are teachers, ministers
and parents, I shared some of the experiences given here about
Shakespeare and children, and now want to give you some of the
responses.

FROM AN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHER:
This last year, I had the roughest bunch of fifth hour students I have
ever faced. (A third of the class is now on the list for alternative
school.)  I had planned on using Bernard Miles's Favorite Tales from
Shakespeare during the year, but I knew this bunch would not sit still
to read it. So I took a chance and read them Hamlet from the book in the
most dramatic voice I had, waving my arms with imaginary swords and
such. It was the only time all year every single student was paying
attention. The bell rang as I finished; they went out saying, "Greatest
story I ever heard!" So I used in it 6th hour too.  Some of those
students went and bought the original play to read in the next few days.
Another teacher in the building asked me after school what I did in my
classes as they moved through the halls raving about this wonderful
story!  It was a great day for me.

FROM ANOTHER TEACHER
Two years ago I had a sixth grade class which became interested in
Shakespeare from my reading orally to them "Troubling a Star"  (full of
Shakespeare quotations).  So I decided to show "Hamlet" to them.  I
wrote several familiar quotations on the board for them to watch for
during the play.  I also cautioned them not to try to understand
everything the characters said, just get a general idea of what they
meant.  And they loved it!  I even heard one of them at recess, playing
baseball, yell out, "A hit! A hit! A very palpable hit!" This is one of
the reasons why it took me two months to read TAS aloud-it was loaded
with discussion starters.

FROM A MOM WITH A BRAND-NEW BABY:
Shakespeare will always have a very special place in my heart.  I met my
husband while taking Shakespeare's Romantic Comedies class.  We had this
professor with the most gorgeous voice and it was fabulous when he would
read aloud.

I always loved the images of the Austins reading Shakespeare aloud and
singing the musical parts.  One of my favorite songs from college (music
major here) was a setting of Blow, Blow Thou Winter Wind.

In high school I read King Lear not long after my grandfather died.
Since he had been suffering from Alzheimer's I found it very therapeutic
working through  Lear's madness.

FROM A HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT:
I just had to share a wonderful memory from this past school year...I
have been lucky enough to have had, for the past two years, a terrific
English teacher who really enjoys teaching Shakespeare.  After studying
Macbeth, we were given an almost totally open-ended assignment through
which we could show extreme creativity and originality.  My two best
friends and I decided to portray the witch scenes from Macbeth, and we
had so much fun.  Shakespeare at its best, can be, IMHO, when one does
it oneself.  It's the best way to fully comprehend the beauty, rhythm,
hilarity, sadness...

We went all out with our production-completely blacking out the room,
swathing the floor with copper colored satin, draping desks with sheets,
composing spooky music, adding strobe lights, sound effects... I mean,
it was a real production.  So maybe the acting was only mediocre! At
least we had fun...living Shakespeare!  That is one of my absolute
favorite times of high school.  Just had to share!

FROM ME:
My kids attended an outdoor performance of Midsummer Night's Dream at
ages 5-7ish and were enchanted with Puck and the company and the
faeries, but somewhat to my embarrassment when the next day they called
out 'Hi, Ethiop' to a passing neighbor.  He was a good-hearted fellow
with a sense of humor.  Fortunately.

Around that time I had an album of Shakespeare songs from the library; I
happened upon my daughter playing by herself, solemnly singing "When
daffodils begin to peer/With hey the doxy over the dale..."  Ten years
later I read Macbeth with her as she studied it, and it recaptured the
excitement of reading any of the great tragedies for the first time.  I
had forgotten, after years of study and deconstruction, that there was
such a thing.

Sorry, Harold Bloom, but I think you're wrong in saying Shakespeare is
not suitable for children!  The responses in these two forums show
abundantly that they take naturally to the plays.  Their understandings
may not be yours or mine, but are they any the less valid?  No!  Let
them love it, and like the baseball kid's palpable hit, they will simply
make it part of their life and vocabulary.

Nancy Charlton
Portland OR

[5]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brooke Brod <
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Date:           Sunday, 12 Jul 1998 14:13:15 EDT
Subject: 9.0631  Questions, Questions, Questions
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0631  Questions, Questions, Questions

This is in response to the question about teaching young children
Shakespeare.  I currently work for Seattle Children's Theatre, which did
an abbreviated version of The Tempest this past spring.  The theatre
also runs a drama school which teaches children ages 31/2 through 21.
We offer a class for four and five year olds, which meets three days a
week for 2 hours.  This class bases its curriculum around the mainstage
productions and they did a long segment on The Tempest.  They used
creative drama exercises to explore the relationships in the play; to
play with the language and gain a good grasp of the story itself.  As
part of the class the children also attended a performance.  It was an
extremely successful class and the children were not bored by or
intimidated by Shakespeare.  The theatre also offers another class
called exploring Shakespeare for first and second graders.  What makes a
difference in these classes is that children are not just reading
Shakespeare, but experiencing it.

Sincerely,
Brooke Brod
 

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