Directing Shakespeare

Macbeth: Something Wicked This Way Comes (Community Shakespeare, February 2017)

This one-day exploration of the Scottish play allowed students to explore theatre basics (levels/conflict/power) while interpreting the witches scene through unique treatments. I am always so impressed at the fresh perspective young learners bring to Shakespeare. Who else would think to try the scene as "snotty cheerleaders" or "immigrants from another country" or "fire demons from hell" or "alien robots"?

The Tempest: Exploring Humanity Through Text (Cal Shakes, November 2016)

This semester long residency with third through fifth grade students aimed to connect Shakespeare's language and story to valuable social skills. Students explored the nature of bullying, and the body stances we use when we have pain, confidence, fear, and freedom. They created an enchanted Island of their own hopes and fears, and they eventually crafted their own creative responses to the text (including dances, raps, standup comedy, original songs, and news broadcasts). They performed for the kindergarteners on campus, introducing even younger learners to the joys of Shakespeare. I was so proud of these students and all that they shared with me.

Shakespeare for Kindergarten (Marin Shakes, February 2016)

This seven–week kindergarten course taught young performers storytelling while using Shakespeare as a foundation. A fond memory for me is the number of ways they came up with to say/interpret our morning warm-up phrase "to be or not to be". The course culminated with a dramatic interpretation of Titania being put to sleep by the fairies, Oberon casting spells, the fairy queen falling in love with the unthinkable, and the recovery of sanity. The kids were fantastic, and because no one told them Shakespeare was supposed to be hard they embraced the text as fabulous and fun. I was so proud!

Othello (Marin Shakes, August 2016)

What do you do when the first day of camp reveals a cast of sci-fi nerds? Why, Othello in outer space, of course! Complete with space battles, galactic makeup, and cast-generated space door sound effects, this was one of the most creative and student-driven productions I have been able to lead. I was especially excited about our double casting of Othello (an Arabic student and a black student—two different examples of "Moor" as well as "Other"), and with the doubling of Iago (a white male and a black female). Playing with gender is always a highlight of dealing with these versatile texts! I also appreciated our set of stars, on which students wrote the things for which they were most grateful (gratitude being an opposing quality to jealousy—a strong negative force in Othello). One of the most memorable elements of this production, for me, was that Marin Shakes gave me the green light to direct while keeping my infant daughter with me. I know that both the children and Harlequinn enjoyed the process, and I was blessed to work for an organization that actively supported me in my ability to be both a mother and a Teaching Artist.

A Midsummer Night's Dream (The Historic Cummins Theater in Merredin Australia, May 2015)

In this installment of the Shakespeare, Shall We? Workshop, Australian students in the Merredin community from ages 8-18 spent ten days rehearsing their own abridged Shakespeare performance. Many had never before appeared in plays, and all were a joy to direct. I was especially excited to have such a diverse cast, and to have the opportunity to explore gender bending with the help of some talented young women in the roles of Demetrius, Bottom, Snug, and Peter Quince. These students were tireless in their preparations, even in the midst of the seeding season—a very busy time of year for the community. I am told that the supportive audience turnout for their debut performance was one of the largest in Merredin history. I was so proud of this cast and hope to someday work with them again.

Here is what community members had to say:

"It's such a valuable and enriching program for children. They learn, have fun and it contributes towards a positive and holistic development of the child. Also, it seemed to bring the community together."

"A wonderful way for students to be introduced to the arts especially drama and especially in a rural area where it is not so accessible."

"The confidence built in 11 days will prove invaluable."

"My daughter has grown in confidence and has thrived on being part of this production."

"Looking at the excitement and joy it has brought in to my grandson's life was worth the trip to Merredin from Perth."

"Every child should have the opportunity to try this."

"It has made my son so happy and proud of himself."

"Fabulous experience for the kids and the community as a whole."

"Unbelievable amount of learnt lines and confident performances."

"Excellent opportunity for our youth to develop as an individual socially, creatively, emotionally and physically."

Read a local write-up here.

The Comedy of Errors (Cal Shakes, November 2014)

In this studio production six home-schooled students met once a week to stage their own Shakespeare play. Every student took on at least two roles, with some playing as many as four. The actors rose to the occasion and put on a fun show, complete with slap-stick sound effects. They even covered for a missing performer at the last minute. I was very proud of them!

Photos by Stephanie Ann Foster

Teaching Artist Fellowship (Cal Shakes, Summer 2014)

This fellowship gave me the opportunity to work with Shakespeare learners across various age ranges at two summer camps. I observed some fabulous teaching artists in the classroom and then was able to design curriculum of my own. The most memorable of these was the Epic Wizard Battle. Under the mentorship of the vivacious and tough Carla Pantoja (Dueling Arts San Francisco) I designed a combat experience for fans of the fantasy genre. Another highlight was the voice class I taught on accent features (under the guidance of Michael Shipley). This was an unforgettable introduction to Cal Shakes.

The Taming of the Shrew (Shady Shakespeare, August 2014)

I acted as Assistant Director for this high-energy outdoor production that brought free Shakespeare to the residents of San Jose. This was a chance to dust off those choreography muscles, and to dust off some beloved text as well. My favorite aspect of this production was that our Kate was presented as a complicated, amused, intelligent woman, and that her relationship with Petruchio included such an interesting and nuanced journey.

Hamlet (Cal Shakes Summer Conservatory, June 2014)

I acted as assistant director in this production, under the direction of Anna Smith, and I could not have been more impressed with the cast. It isn't every group of elementary students that can handle Hamlet, and these students tackled the material with aplomb and zeal. I was especially impressed with their mature handling of stage combat, suicide, and with the work of our two Ophelias—both of whom remained on stage together in all scenes. What a beautiful production.

Photos by Stephanie Ann Foster

Pericles (The American Shakespeare Center, July 2013)

What a delightful opportunity! Working with nine talented young performers, I directed a touring-style version of the neglected Shakespeare gem Pericles. We rehearsed in three locations and then performed in the beautiful Blackfriars Playhouse, making use of original staging techniques in the three-entry space. I treasured the experience and look forward to great things from these young performers!

A Midsummer Night's Dream (Yongsan International School of Seoul, April 2013)

Our YISS Drama Department's first Shakespeare! This production was informed by the Vietnam War and the aesthetic of the '70s. In a makeshift space due to renovations, it was also an exercise in perseverance and creativity as students constructed and struck their own theatre each night.