Teaching Shakespeare!

A Folger Education Blog

One Week in Haiti: The End

~by Emily Marquet
For the rest of this adventure, please see these posts!
Day 1
Day 2
Days 3 & 4

Day 5: WE’RE DOING IT!

Our actors, naturally, were completely unfazed by the request to perform twice. After the morning assembly, the actors reported to the “stage”- the front basketball court of the school had miraculously transformed into an auditorium. A tarp was hung to keep out the bright Haitian sun and benches were dragged from the cafeteria.

Time was crunched and as the benches were filling with expectant students, we hastily gave the actors some final notes: don’t turn your back to the audience, project etc. And most importantly, have fun!

Elle and I took a big step back for the performances and simply enjoyed watching. It was the student’s show, after all, and we both felt like our roles were expendable. The actor’s imaginations and talents were boundless and we both commented that we felt we had received a huge gift by being given the chance to work with them, and then to enjoy their performance.

I cannot do either of the performances justice with a description. I was absolutely speechless to the fact that these students-turned-actors performed a fabulous, completely original rendition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream- and with only four days of rehearsal!

The success of the play had far-reaching consequences. It represented a huge success for the school as well as the surrounding neighborhood because it allowed the students to shine as individuals but also express the community of the school and the cast. The success also had a lot to do with the incredible hard work the students put into translating their lines and creating a unique Haitian setting for the play world to live in.

I felt that the performance I saw of Shakespeare’s play at LCS was one of the most truthful and evocative renditions of that play that I had ever seen. It was simple: no set, very few props and costumes and it cost nothing to put on and yet it moved the audience in profound ways.

Shakespeare does indeed have something to say to all of us and his universality remains intact when translated or re-rendered in different language and cultures.

I thank the LCS community for sharing their time and talents and especially the actors who worked incredibly hard for the week I was there and the volunteer teachers who were so supportive of all of our efforts.  Also, I must thank Elle Thoni, who put up with me through all my moments of stress and was a role model of energy and joy throughout the process.

My week in Haiti illustrated very strongly an opinion I’ve held for awhile: theatre is a unifier and does have far-reaching effects; letting young people perform, and especially perform Shakespeare, is one of the best experiences an educator can give them.

Emily Marquet is currently an intern with Folger’s Education and Public Programs divisions. She has worked with the American Shakespeare Center as a Camp Counselor and Assistant Director, and is a recent graduate of NYU with a Fine Arts major in Drama and minor in Social and Cultural Analysis. For more information about The Haitian Project and the Louverture Cleary School, visit their website: http://haitianproject.org/article/louverture-cleary-school.

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