Jennifer Mounce, of North Carolina, recently reported back to us regarding the success of her group’s production of Much Ado About Nothing. Jennifer is a homeschool mom of five, and member of a five family homeschool co-op. They cover history, science, writing, art, and music as a group. Every spring their co-op produces a Shakespeare play.
This past winter they chose to work with a Kids Love Shakespeare customized version of Much Ado About Nothing. Jennifer explains, “We chose Kids Love Shakespeare for two reasons: 1. I personally love Much Ado and (Kids Love Shakespeare was) about the only one with a usable version. 2. (Marieka) was so willing to work with us. The script fit us perfectly because it was customized to our group. That is what made it such a stellar performance.” Because the ages of Jennifer’s group’s actors ranged from 4 – 15 years, the customized script enabled every actor to participate at an appropriate level. It provided a few simple lines for the 4 year old, while giving a few longer excerpts of original Shakespearean text to the older students.
Their process as an entire cast was fairly short. Students were given their parts in March and spent the next two months memorizing their lines with their individual families at home. In May, the group came together for three weeks and a total of eleven rehearsals. For this particular group, Jennifer reflects, “it was the perfect amount of time.” She also recommends, if it is possible, to give scripts to students early for memorization. It “allowed us to use our rehearsals more effectively… there was very little forgetting of lines. We were able to stage and block quickly… It took a lot of the headache out of the whole process.”
This particular production was truly a community effort. The five families in the co-op split the cost of the customization. Each family was responsible for costuming their own actors and they had “wonderful grandparents” who created their set. Some of the students helped with costumes and one planned and printed the program.
After a few months of intense work, the group performed once for about fifty audience members. The audience was made up primarily of family and friends but included a few outside community members. Jennifer shares that her favorite memory was watching her students perform in front of a laughing audience. “They had been warned this would happen, but it was hilarious to watch. The kids really fed off the audience in a way I had never seen them (do) before.” Here major regret is that they did not play to perform the play more than once.
The student involved in the production had experience with Shakespeare in the past (having done Macbeth and Hamlet in previous years). This year, however, they truly enjoyed performing a comedy and, as Jennifer reports, “are eager to do another comedy” next year.
When Jennifer suggested the students consider exploring another genre of theatre the students turned her down. She says, “nothing but Shakespeare for this crowd.”
Jennifer was happy to relay that, at their July meeting, the board of her homeschool c0-op unanimously voted to work with Kids Love Shakespeare on next year’s production. Kids Love Shakespeare is looking forward to working on an adaptation of Twelfh Night customized especially for their group!