Teaching Shakespeare!

A Folger Education Blog

Just another Fairie?

Students perform The Tempest for the 2010 Children’s Festival

In the age of  more and more Tinkerbell movies(yes there’s another one coming soon), one can understand an elementary educator’s propensity towards producing A Midsummer Night’s Dream with their students. Young girls can be quite drawn to the idea of putting on those fairy wings and singing a sweet lullaby to their Queen. Budding young actors love the idea of strutting their stuff as mechanicals preparing a play within the play. And with the hijinx that ensue between Oberon, Puck and the lovers, there is no end to the potential for side-splitting laughs with the children. Also, from a teacher’s standpoint the language is likely far clearer and easier to teach than other Shakespeare works.

However. Midsummer is not the only play that can be made suitable for performance by elementary students! I suggest that young troupes may dare to take on plays with other thematic elements that might be appealing to elementary children.  Why not tap into the Harry Potter streak and throw a little Tempest into the mix? Plenty of  potential for casting would be wizards, sprites and strange creatures there. What about the longing for power and glory and the sheer menace in Macbeth or Richard III? Betrayal, treachery, really cool sword fights, hello? Kids can shock you with their ability to handle the complexities of Hamlet.

Don’t want to go to that dark place with your students? The antics in Twelfth Night, As You Like It or Comedy of Errors can also be a pleasant departure from the norm. Mistaken identity and genderbending are always a hit!

What do you think? Should we challenge ourselves before we send another fairy traipsing across the stage? Or when working with young students is it best to go with a play somewhat less challenging, more familiar and that has more party store accessible costuming choices?

Should you decide to perform something other than Midsummer with your younger students this year, here’s a movie trailer sure to satisfy your Fairie sweet tooth: