Aside from reading Charles and Mary Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare to them before they go to bed at night, how do you prep your kids for Summer Theatre going, especially Shakespeare?
Here’s how we get started every summer…
Three Super Fun Ways to Prep the Kids for a Shakespeare Play [or Other Theatre]
1. WATCH ADAPTATIONS … the stranger the better
Not to put the cart before the horse….Well, no, to put the cart before the horse….One of my favourite ways to introduce my kids to Shakespeare is to show them film adaptations of the plays. The point, at least in our house, is to enchant the kids with the basic stories and themes. There’s no particular reason to go “traditional” and show them Laurence Olivier in Hamlet or what have you. In fact, we’ve found, the more obscure, the better. Have them watch Ten Things I Hate About You [A Teen Taming of the Shrew], Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood [An Eastern Macbeth], West Side Story [Bernstein’s musical, NYC Romeo and Juliet] or Forbidden Planet [a 1950’s outer-space Tempest].
2. ACT OUT A SCENE
There’s nothing better than discovering a play by trying to act it out yourself. Here are a few “dramatic” ways to get familiar with a Shakespeare play [or any play] in a hurry:
One of our favourite things to do is a “Cold Reading” of a random scene from the play. The kids come into the room and pretend that they are there for an “audition.” I hand them a few pages of the “script” and tell them just a tiny bit about the characters they’ll be portraying. Then, they do their best to act out the scene on the spot.
Stuffed Animal Showcase
Use stuffed animals or existing puppets to “act out” a scene for the family.
Silent Shadowbox Theatre
Try to play out a scene without using any dialogue at all. You can create or source the silhouettes of a few human figures or Shakespeare chacters online and then use our Shadowbox Puppet Theatre to act out the scene.
3. GET FAMILIAR WITH A MONOLOGUE
Aside from showing the kids the classic Our Gang version of the famous monologue from Julius Caesar [above], here are a few fun things we’ve done with famous Shakespeare monologues [or other dramatic, solo speeches]:
Illustrate the monologue by focusing on a few key words or images as they’re read aloud or as you read them to yourself. These need not be literal “translations” of the words into pictures. The kids love to do this with cartooning! A great subject for cartooning is the “All the World’s A Stage” monologue from As You Like It. Check out this Zen Pencils version, for instance.
Dictionary Monologue “Translations“
Look up all of the “hard” words in each monologue and try to replace them with more simple terms. Then, read aloud your “translations” to see if they make sense.
Read through a monologue a couple of times in a “funny” voice or with a strange accent to see if you can get the other kids to laugh. Or, have different kids read the monologue in different “voices” simultaneously while one kid or parent stands as “conductor.” The kids must “stop” and “go” or raise and lower their voices according to the conductor’s commands.