On the Journey
news reel: stories of People, places, and learning AT Aspen Country Day School
The Lower School Shakespeare Festival returns to Aspen Country Day School in December with three solid days of performances of the genius playwright's greatest hits. To make the stories come alive for audiences of all ages, children are creating their own new interpretations of classic works ranging from Macbeth in Kindergarten to Julius Caesar in Fifth Grade.
Country Day children gain early and deep exposure to this rich cultural legacy, and in particular the complex but intriguing language of the plays. Teachers start by storytelling, sharing the plots a developmentally appropriate way. "With Macbeth, for example, we explain that he could become king, but his wife wants that crown more than he does," says drama teacher Marci Sketch. "They pick right up on the themes of power, love, and betrayal. They love the stories, always wanting to know what happens next."
Next, students dive deep into the language and practice acting out the famous scenes. "Some of the lines we are using, even in Kindergarten, are right from the folio," Marci says. "They hear the vocabulary and learn to enjoy it, rather than to fear it. It becomes accessible to them, so that when they go on to high school or college, it's already familiar."
"There are not many schools that do anything like this," says music and drama teacher Brandon Joseph. "Maybe one grade will do one play, but not this continuous exposure year after year, and for children beginning at such a young age. It is a real gift to children."
In a recent rehearsal of Hamlet, children practiced tapping their chests as they recited the famous "to be or not to be" sililoqy. One young performer commented, "Hey, it's like a heartbeat! Shakespeare is talking to us from his heart."