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Quick Tips

Performing Shakespeare

Create a comfortable environment.

Build up to larger in-class performance by starting small. Choral readings, silent scenes or tableaux exercises can help you build to something bigger.

Have students make the cuts.

When students have to reduce the size of a piece of text for performance, it makes them grapple with the whole range of interpretive issues. Ask them to cut their own scenes and monologues for performance.

Establish rules of behavior.

Encourage the students to behave as if they are in a professional production, and treat them as if they are big shot actors. The students will become excited about the process, and their work ethic will knock you out of your socks!

Who needs order?

There is no need to rehearse scenes in order. Rehearse what needs to be rehearsed, and resist the temptation to rehearse what is fun or what looks the best.

"Patience, good sir; do not assist the storm." "Pericles, Prince
of Tyre" III:i

The key to a successful rehearsal is staying calm. Students will be excited and more energetic than usual and that is OK. Use this level of excitement to energize the scenes, not your temper.

"You say potato and I say potahto."

Some words or names will be difficult for students to pronounce. Announcing, "Are there any Elizabethans in the room?," when a student stumbles across a difficult pronunciation helps stress that we don't always know how the words were pronounced. The class should come to a consensus and use the agreed upon pronunciation. However, if any student Oberon calls his Titania a "won ton" (as in the Chinese soup) rather than a "wanton," feel free to correct gently.

Explore a Scene.

There is nothing wrong with teaching part of a play - one or more scenes - instead of the entire play. Focus on a single scene in which students can extrapolate information about characters and conflicts in other parts of the text.

Fix as you go.

The play will not magically improve without your guidance. Regularly give notes on volume, diction and blocking. Make sure that students understand why they are saying what they are saying and doing what they are doing.

Start From the Middle.

Begin teaching in the middle of a play. Select a scene where characters are already in conflict and discuss what might have led to this and how it could be resolved. When you return to the beginning of the play, students will already understand characters and feel excited because they know what is coming up.

Encourage.

Encourage, encourage, encourage. There is nothing like a little positive feedback to boost confidence and to inspire creativity.

Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse.

Assign rehearsal monitors and have the students work through parts of
scenes in small groups while you or your student director conducts the
main rehearsal.

Organize.

Organization is the key to all things great. Keep everything for your performance in one binder; this includes cast lists, rehearsal schedule, script, prop lists, etc.

Share!

Invite people! Classroom performances are beneficial in and of themselves, but students really love to perform for others. Set a time for your class to perform, and invite people like administrators, staff members, and other classes; schedule in time for a post show discussion.

Performance

Professional Development

Quick Tips

"Hamlet" for English Language Learners: The Photo-Performance Project
A case study by Mary Ellen Dakin

"A Hit, a Very Palpable Hit": Stage Combat for Student Performers
A case study by Jeff Schober

It's All in the Concept: The World of the Play in Middle School
A case study by Stacie Beard

Discovery Through Performance
An in-depth article by Caleen Sinnette Jennings

Lesson Plans

Shakespearean "Conversations"
A lesson plan by Michael LoMonico
Performance First
A lesson plan by Judith Elstein

Browse by theme

Shakespeare for elementary students
Shakespeare on film
Teaching Shakespeare with technology
Shakespeare's language
Teaching Shakespeare with primary sources
Performance
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