This story was sent to us by Denise Altaffer, mother of Summer Shakespeare Conservatory student—and Macbeth understudy—Will Altaffer.
My 13-year-old son, Will, participated in the five-week camp this past summer for the first time. He had a fantastic experience and would come home daily with enthusiastic stories of his day. This story, however, is not about him, but about his 10-year- old sister, Adrian, who did not attend camp and had had, at that point, no exposure to Shakespeare.
Adrian would look forward to Will’s stories of camp daily and with some regret for not having chosen to attend camp herself. By the time the end of camp rolled around, she insisted on watching every group perform. Soon after camp ended, and as a direct result from his performance at camp, Will was asked to understudy as Fleance in Macbeth. Will watched Macbeth six times as part of his preparation for this, and Adrian insisted on coming along every single time. She was fascinated by the story; the Wyrd Sisters, in particular, grabbed her imagination. By late August she had all of the Wyrd Sisters’ scenes memorized, and would discuss the details of the blocking and imagery at length.
When school started in the fall, she brought Will’s script to class as her “silent reading” book, which aroused the curiosity of her fellow fifth-grade students. By the end of the first week of school, she had gathered a group of six other fifth-graders, arranged to use the library at recess three days a week, and proceeded to direct and act in the cauldron scene. She designed and made, with my help, all six costumes she would need; re-cast several of the roles as kids decided they weren’t willing to give up that much recess; and, by the middle of October, performed their scene for the entire fifth grade!
That’s seven kids, including Adrian, with no prior Shakespeare exposure, choosing to spend a month and a half of their own time—for no particular reason—learning lines from Shakespeare, and 40 kids watching their peers perform Shakespeare, afterward asking for autographs because, “that was so good, someday you will be famous!”
That’s Cal Shakes Artistic Learning reaching 40 kids and their siblings and their friends and their teachers … without even trying!