Here’s a tale recently told to our Director of Artistic Learning, Trish Tillman, by Mike Jones, a teacher whose students have been working with Cal Shakes Teaching Artist Norman Gee at Oakland High. Jones says that there are two young men in his English class known for their truancy and bad behavior, but who show up consistently for the Shakespeare sessions. “They are the ones this year who have memorized their lines before anyone else,” says Mr. Jones, “delivering them with the beginnings of emotional resonance in front of the others in class. Quite a nice occurrence.”
And from Victoria Erville, a Cal Shakes Teaching Artist (and Artistic Director of the African-American Shakespeare Company) currently working with kids at Foothill Elementary (Pittsburg), comes a story of a couple of smaller boys who actually prefer Shakespeare to recess. “They come into my class during recess and practice their lines with me. It has become a bit of a ‘thing’ to know more lines than anyone else.” Another favorite of Ms. Erville’s is “the young lady who is having trouble remembering her lines. When I told her she could do it and that she just needed a little confidence, she smiled and said I sounded like her mom.”
“Then there is David,” continues Ms. Erville, “who wants to play every role, and Manuel, who is my stage manager and says directing is ‘easy.’” She says that the entire elementary school has got the acting bug: She’s even got one of the teachers quoting Shakespeare now.
“They are already talking about spring, and fighting over which classes get drama. It’s a shame that they have no other arts programs here. The kids are drinking it up.”