When Dana Alvarez was in high school she had the opportunity to attend the National Shakespeare Competition in New York City and visit The Globe Theatre in London. These two experiences solidified her love of Shakespeare and the world in which he lived. Dana, now a 5th grade teacher of Gifted students in Cape Coral, Florida, is so thrilled to finally “share that passion with (her) students.”
Please enjoy Dana’s reflection below…
We study the Renaissance every year in fifth grade and it is one of my favorite units! I read excerpts from Midsummer Night’s Dream with the kids. I also bought a children’s version of it and read it with them. The kids have been entranced by the story line: the silliness, the magic, the humor, and the social issues. I have always wanted to direct the show with my classes. Finally, this year, the teacher next door to me who has half of my class (since I teach gifted) asked if I thought it would be possible to direct it. So I searched for a children’s version that kept the integrity of the language and plot.
We rehearsed twice a week at the end of the school day in the classroom, for two months. We did not have one afterschool rehearsal! We would block scenes simultaneously; I might work with the Mechanicals while (the other teacher) worked with the Athenians. It worked out well.
Our principal has always supported the arts endeavors at the school so he made many announcements and attended all performances. We did not have a budget or any funds really. I used money from the drama club fund that I had. One parent who teaches a sewing club worked on a few main costumes; donkey head, Puck’s outfit, crowns and sashes, etc. The students were involved (mostly) in the acting. But some worked to gather and create props and scenery items. (We had) a simple but beautiful set of risers and trees/shrubs… in our cafeteria.
We performed the show three times. Once in the evening for the families of the actors, which was about 50 people. Then twice for our third through fifth grade students. There were seven classes of around twenty per grade. For most of the children, this was their first taste of Shakespeare. They were very appreciative and you could tell on their faces (and by their cheers and laughs) that they loved it!
My favorite part was finally seeing the finished product and my four year plan to direct this show with children finally come to fruition. The children all loved the “fight scene” between Hermia, Helena, Demetrius, and Lysander! And I loved directing the “stage combat.” It was hysterical. We also enjoyed the actor who played Puck and all his improving. He had a lot of lines, and even when ad-libbing, he managed to make it all rhyme! For the students, I feel they really got to experience Shakespeare and understand what it is about his writing that has captivated readers and audiences for hundreds of years.
It was amazing to see how well the students understood and interpreted the language and themes of Shakespeare’s works, and how much they enjoyed such a timeless play. I was pleased to finally be able to direct Shakespeare with this age group, and for them to really love it!