Stephanie Walsh, of Arizona, has no formal theatrical training nor experience. However, this did not stop her from producing Kids Love Shakespeare’s version of Romeo & Juliet with her eager group of 5th graders.
This particular production was almost a year in making. Ms. Walsh originally introduced Shakespeare to this group when they were in 4th Grade. They were immediately hooked, but there was not time to organize a production as the school year was drawing to an end. When Ms. Walsh decided to move up to 5th grade with her students, producing Romeo & Juliet moved to the top of her to-do list. The hunt for an appropriate script began. She explains, “I chose the Kids Love Shakespeare script because it was closest to how the play was originally written yet it was not beyond the capabilities of my fifth grade students.”
All she had left to do was cast it (I believe this to be the hardest part of working with children). She, in a brilliant stroke of genius, left the hard decision making up to second graders “who watched Scene 8 performed by several Romeos and Juliets. They then voted on their favorites.”
The group was permitted by the school’s administration to study and rehearse the play during English/Language Arts time. Ms. Walsh started by reading the play as a whole group, using a literature circle format, so that her students had the opportunity to “discuss the play thoroughly” before trying out for individual parts. “I believe that is what vested all of my students’ interest. They loved reading it!” she explains.
Ms. Walsh’s class rehearsed the play for 6 weeks. The first four weeks were only twice a week, while the last two weeks they rehearsed everyday for an hour an a half. She had the help of a parent, who did have a background in theatre, throughout the process. Students were involved in several aspects of the production: set design, writing programs and designing posters.
The group performed twice. Once for their peers at their school and once for their families and friends on the local high school stage. Their principal reports, ” It was the coming together of a class in the most amazing show of trust, understanding and cooperation.” Needless to say all involved were very proud of the process and the final product. And they are already planning another Shakespeare production soon!