S is for Shakespeare … and for Sharing

A Northern Lights student stepping into character before the show.

The final installment by Marketing Intern Katie McGee, documenting her participation in a Cal Shakes classroom residency.

“Ummm…where’s my costume?” “What if I forget my lines?” Ahhh. The sounds of final performance day have arrived. Eager jitters spreading around the performance space. Despite the exclamations of nervous dismay, these students are ready.

Why do I like the idea of youth performing Shakespeare? All the subliminal lessons that come with the experience, like a parent disguising servings of vegetables in delicious fruit juices. Some of these hidden lessons include: teamwork, stage presence, public speaking, and storytelling as a form of expression.

OK, but why Shakespeare? All of these lessons could be learned in a musical production of The Hobbit. Shakespeare, however, presents a seemingly greater challenge, thanks to the text’s richness and density. Shakespeare is often misperceived as literature for stuffy academics. This ridiculous notion, however, intensifies the empowerment a young student experiences once they have mastered the language and discovered the script’s meaning. Shakespeare is for everyone, not just your local, literary members-only club.  Shakespeare wrote for the masses—jokes and tragedies for all to relate to.  Shakespeare is for sharing.

Of all the lessons these students gained, sharing seemed the most evident. They shared costumes, props, space, stage, responsibility, characters, and, perhaps most importantly, they fearlessly shared what they had learned throughout the program. It was deeply apparent that the knowledge Cal Shakes’ Trish Tillman had shared had lit a fire under their desire for Shakespeare and storytelling. I enjoyed watching this flame grow steadily throughout my observation. One young performer, Avi’tal Wilson-Perteete, was especially frank about her new found hunger for the Bard, “I am 100 percent sure I will do Shakespeare again in the near future!”

A Northern Lights student portraying Ophelia shares flowers with the audience.

I am so tickled to have been given even a fragment of this experience with these young and passionate actors and academics.  I am hopeful and my fingers are quadruple-crossed that these students remember Shakespeare is for sharing, and continue to share and develop their love for his work. Maybe at the Bruns this summer? Heck yes to that.

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