One of the best things about our homeschool co-op is the very high quality drama program. Kids in roughly grades 1-3 all take drama as one of their required classes. They perform a short skit in an end of the year drama night. This year John was one of the Blind Men in the Blind Men and the Elephant. It’s a fantastic opportunity for kids to have a chance to perform in a nice low-key setting.
The older kids have the opportunity to take acting electives, culminating in a Shakespeare class in the senior high. They put on an extremely high-quality Play Festival at the end of the year that includes one Shakespeare play (slightly shortened) and two shorter plays. It is a wonderful night and exciting for all of those who know the performers.
It’s also been a great way to introduce Shakespeare to my kids. This year and last, we read abridged versions of the play being performed before going to the performance so the boys had a general idea of the storyline. This year the play being performed was Twelfth Night, which has a fairly convoluted plot so it was especially helpful to know the basic outline. One thing I appreciate about the Colville and Williams books as well as the performance that our co-op does, is that they are abridged but not dumbed down. They both include some of Shakespeare’s original language just in a more accessible version.
The Shakespeare Can Be Fun! series by Lois Burdett was new to me this year. Burdett is a teacher who has been doing Shakespeare with her elementary students for many years. These books give the plot of the Shakespeare play but rewritten in rhyming couplets and accompanied by drawings from kids in her class. I appreciate the concept here but I wondered why not introduce kids to Shakespeare using his own language. I love the idea of a teacher who shares her love of Shakespeare with kids, but it just feels like an essential part of the beauty of Shakespeare is missing here.
What has impressed me about seeing the plays at our co-op is that Shakespeare can be fun in the original. They do shorten the play a bit but the language is all original and the staging is fairly traditional. The quality of the actors and the genius of Shakespeare had my 5 year old and 8 year old enthralled. Granted, David started to get really tired around 9:15 but he perked up when the swordfight started. And John absolutely loved it. At one point he was laughing so hard I thought he was going to fall off the pew, at another I looked at him and his eyes were big and shining and he was just mesmerized. I’ve always loved theater and it makes me happy to share that love with him.