Shakespeare! (Plus Free Scripts)

Three of the fabulous actors from our Much Ado show hanging out backstage (via Highwood Theater)
Three of the fabulous actors from our Much Ado show hanging out backstage (via Highwood Theater)

I haven’t been posting much in the last few weeks because two events have taken over our lives – Destination Imagination (more on that in a post soon) and Shakespeare.

We’re definitely reaching the stage of homeschooling where I can look back through this blog and find exactly the thing I’d like to write again about what we’re up to. And here it is:

Advice for Any Foolhardy Shakespeare Directors Out There

It’s from as we were gearing up to perform Macbeth a couple of years ago. We just wrapped up Much Ado About Nothing, which was by far our most elaborate production. We’ve now done this four different ways and I through all that, I stand by all that advice. To sum it up:

  • The most important thing you need to direct a Shakespeare show with kids is the will to do it. The kids, the scripts, and even the spaces can all fall into place. Most homeschoolers are practically begging to have their kids have an opportunity to do some meaty Shakespeare.
  • Don’t underestimate the need to play theater games and have fun, even right up to the wire. Kids learn things like blocking and projecting their voices that way, plus thinking of rehearsal as a fun time can be important.
  • If you’ve got kids under age 10, have them learn their lines before beginning rehearsals in earnest.  Before about that age, the majority of kids can’t really act and hold a script and read lines all at the same time. Give them some time to learn the lines after handing out roles and then get started, with everyone off book all at once.
  • Don’t underestimate how hard it is for kids to learn blocking. Kids are sponges. Saying a long Shakespeare line – no problem! But remembering not to do it with your back to the audience and standing behind your best friend – that’s hard.
  • Don’t be afraid to be creative with sets and costumes. Or to just be minimal. I’ve had four productions, all with massively different types and amounts of set pieces and costuming. It can work with a ton of cool set things or nothing but a few simple props.
  • The biggest challenge for me has consistently been finding rehearsal and performance spaces. We’ve used someone’s home, a church gym, a local historic building, and a theater space to rehearse. And we’ve performed in two local professional theaters, a church stage, and a big meeting room. This year, I decided to approach the theater where Mushroom has done a couple of shows and see if they’d like to work with me to try and expand their homeschool program. It was nice not to have to scramble for spaces and afforded us some amazing set and costume help. However, there was something nice about keeping costs low and having other parents pitch in to help bring everything to fruition. Both ways can work.

For elementary schoolers, I found Shakespeare with Children by Elizabeth Weinstein to be the best source of scripts. They’re short, with lots of roles for a large group, and with Shakespeare’s original language throughout, except for a narrator. From that, I edited the scripts by taking some of the text away (for The Tempest) or adding some back in (for A Midsummer Night’s Dream). However, I’ve also cut two plays for us to use ourselves and thought I’d provide those scripts here for anyone to use.

MACBETH SCRIPT

This script was cut extremely short specifically for performance in the twenty minute time limit set by the Folger Library’s Children’s Shakespeare Festival. It could be a good script for a classroom or co-op performance since it’s of a much more limited scope. It includes many roles, but some can be condensed for a smaller cast.

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING SCRIPT

This script is about an hour long. This play is often not performed by children because of it has more innuendo than some of the other comedies. Innuendo likely to be understood by children has been removed from this version. Also, Leonato’s condemnation of Hero is greatly softened, as is Hero’s alleged betrayal. We staged our version in the 1920’s with music, but you could stage it in any era. We also had Beatrice sing Shakespeare’s “Sigh No More, Ladies/Hey, Nonny Nonny” at the start of the show. Note: There are a few typos in this script. I went back to fix them and the original version that wasn’t pdf was missing and editing from the pdf was difficult. Oops. So you get the script with the dozen typos though most are very minor. However, there’s an error on page 12 where Don Pedro enters and speaks to Claudio, except he’s not quite on stage yet.

7 thoughts on “Shakespeare! (Plus Free Scripts)

  1. This is so wonderful! I have been looking for a way to introduce my Littles to Macbeth, my favorite Shakespeare of all time. Thank you so much for providing the short script.

  2. Thank you for your abridgement of Macbeth! A group of 22 homeschooling kids, ages four to fourteen, performed it Friday night after rehearsing for 6 weeks. It was a great length for our beginner group and told the story well. I was excited to hear my boys tell me they had fun at the performance, will miss our weekly rehearsals, and want to perform more Shakespeare!

  3. We are seeing Shakespeare’s “Pericles” performed in January at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. Do you recommend any resources for us to look at before we go see the show?

    1. Pericles, that’s interesting. One of the few I’ve never seen or read. All I know about it is that it’s one with disputed authorship. It’s not going to be in most of the children’s retelling collections and there won’t be an Animated Tales for it either – those are my go tos for before my kids see a new Shakespeare play performed. I think I’d just find a summary and read it so that they’ve previewed the plot and then go and enjoy it.

  4. This is wonderful! Our co-op wants to put on a play at the end of this coming school year after spending time studying it through the year. This is exactly what I was hoping to find.
    Thanks for your hard work on this.

    1. Thank you for sharing the scripts. I am an English teacher for ESL Do you think that Macbeth could be outside their scope? Their level is B1. If it is so I was wondering if someone could help me with another shakespeare´s script for 11 years-old.

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