Teaching Shakespeare!

A Folger Education Blog

How Pro do you Go?

A student Macbeth from the 2012 Children’s Festival

As teachers and students begin preparing to perform a Shakespeare play, questions arise that may not have been considered:

  • Where are the costumes coming from?
  • What props do we need?
  • How can we set the scene?

For our festival schools, we encourage a minimal amount of props and costumes – it’s easier to transport, and it doesn’t distract from the awesome language the students are performing! Shakespeare’s own company didn’t have sets to work on, and all of their costumes  were donated upperclass clothes. Any props would have to be purchased (O, that shareholder money!) or made by the company.

Shakespeare didn’t write in must-have props and costumes for his plays – but here and there he may offer hints. Is a character carrying a letter or a bag of money to give to someone else? Does one character refer to another character’s clothes as “nighted color?” Are there definitely trees in this scene? As you read through the play with your students, underline these clues and decide if they’re necessary to telling this story. If they are, brainstorm together on how these can be represented for the performance.

The thing to remember most is does this tell the story? The audience has a great capacity for imagination, and if you gesture with a wooden dagger and proclaim that it is dangerous then they will believe you!

Are you planning a performance of a Shakespeare play this year? What will you be performing?

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