Tuesday, November 29, 2011

An Interview: Sam

sam: I'm Sam, I'm in fourth grade and I played Nick Bottom.

mel: Sam, was anything about Shakespeare Club surprising to you?

[Sam takes a long think]

It was surprising how everyone focused. Like when you come into Shakespeare practice everything calms down.

When you got into the club, what did you expect the meetings would be like?

I thought we'd just walk in and do a play.

Did you find things boring or hard work?

Yeah...hard work, but not really boring.

How did you feel going through four performances in one day playing Nick Bottom?

It was pretty tiring but I was excited. The worst part...the scariest part is right before you get onstage, and then you get onstage and it's not that bad.

Why do you think that is?

Because, like, when you're going to walk up onstage, you're nervous 'cause you can see the audience, but when you get onstage it's just like doing a run-through.

Did you have a favorite performance?

The last one, because everyone was tired but they wanted to end with a bang.

And did people give you compliments in the days following?

Yeah...mostly they said, "Were you the donkey? Hey, donkey...donkey!"

Are you glad you played Nick Bottom or was there another part you wanted to play?

I'm glad I played Nick Bottom. At the beginning I thought I wanted to play Puck...but I was kind of excited about Puck and Nick Bottom.

What do you think you want to be when you grow up, Sam?

A physicist, or maybe an actor.

If you were a scientist, how do you think your experience as an actor would help you?

It would help me focus.

Do you have any ideas how to make Shakespeare Club better?

[long think]

I think it would be better if you could add a line.

What do you mean? Help me understand.

Like when they say, "Apricots and dewberries," you could say...like, "Oh my favorite!"

Oh, you mean change Shakespeare's text? Yeah, that's the one thing we can't do.

What advice would you give to a child who wanted to audition for Shakespeare Club but might be too scared?

It's okay to be scared, but you got to believe you can do it.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Nothing Gold Can Stay


Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
The leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
—Robert Frost

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


It may happen as you bend your tall self to tie a shoe
A Danish castle; a ghost appears

When you idle your BMW, glance to the left
Verona arush with wild boys and flashing swords

Address the Board, catch the eye of a partner
And you're on a Scottish heath abrim with ambition

A breeze brushes your cheek, lifts the lace veil
At a wedding in an Athenian forest

Press your elegant feet into sand and
Let your heart zip you to an island called Ilyria...

That shipwreck

That time, that place when we crashed on shore
Our vessel broken
Our fears afire
And courage rose with outstretched hands
Voices whooped aloud and full of stanzas

One day, when you need it most, it will happen upon you
The time you leapt
Took a breath; took a chance
And skimmed on wings of poetry

When you are old, when you are afraid, when you are alone
Remember this
A castle in Denmark, a heath in Scotland, a dusty Italian street,
a mossy glen...
a beach in Ilyria
Where power, love and revenge reigned
And you were triumphant....

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Brio: Carina

The number-one characteristic I look for when auditioning kids is enthusiasm.

It's not something we can manufacture or purchase....It just is.

Carina bopped into the audition room on a cloud of ebullient spirit that never wavered for a single meeting. Keeping her seated was a challenge some days...but that's a fair trade for unbridled zest.

Carina's daddy hails from Italy, and I'm guessing this is where she gets her dark-eyed flash.

Carina's mommy is a force of laughing energy, and I'm thinking this is where she gets her zing.

Carina loved being front and center as our wall in "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Equally, she rooted for her fellow players when they received big audience reactions.

Carina used her enthusiasm to gather the group into cohesive optimism even as they were scared out of their wits when facing a crowd.

Carina is a walking pep rally, and we all benefited from her.

Happy Valintines day!

I hope you like my card and to make you LOVE me I got you a Starbucks gift card.

Lots of Love,
—Carina, 3rd grade

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Directors often talk too much. The joke among seasoned actors is:

Faster. Slower. Louder. Softer.

In other words, I don't need to know everything you (the director) know, or think, or researched. Just give it to me straight and simple.

I think a director's job is to create a world, a framework, where characters live fully and pursue fully.

Then I think the director's job is to encourage.

I'm proud to say this is all I did with these kids in "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

I did not tell them what to do. We discussed what the characters wanted, what surprised them, and about going one-hundred percent to serve the audience.

Watch the scene above and see what you think.


I want to have a adventure because I want to travel to many places counting the universe. I never traveled somewhere far with a boat. When I read I like to go into the book and imagine what's happening. I want to also go in a submarine because its cool and also to go underwater travaling and I was to see sharks and whales alsort of living animals under water. I also want to see how I would breathe under water without an oxigen tank.
—Natalie, 5th grade

Friday, November 11, 2011

A River in Egypt

Yeah, I know. Denial...a bad thing, right?

Well, not so fast. I agree being blind isn't so helpful, but every now and then, a dose of denial can get us through.

When you're coughing and sneezing but have to go to work...denial can get you through the day.

When the whole world thinks you're a useless loser...denial (and cheesy TV) can cheer you up.

And, say, when you've broken your leg three weeks before you have to go onstage to dance and act....

Check out Audrey (above) in the front row as the Shakespeare Club starts "A Midsummer Night's Dream" with a Bollywood dance.

This is denial — cast and all — at its best.


One day after school my coach was in side and I was out side and coach saw me out side and coach had snack and she said Laci come in side and I said can I have snack and she said no but you can wash the brushes and the cubs and the sinke and she said when your done clen the floor but I must obey. And my mom finely came.
—Laci, 4th grade

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

An Interview: Rebecca and Audrey

rebecca: I'm Rebecca, I'm in third grade and I played Cobweb and Hippolyta.

audrey: I'm Audrey, I'm in third grade and I played Robin Starveling.

mel: Now, what is it about acting that appeals to you, Rebecca?

R: Well, it's...I can sort of just express myself, it's a thing that I really like doing and I really like to express myself and show people how I feel.

What do you think acting is, Audrey?

A: I think it's just giving your character and showing the audience what you can do and how you do it...and how you play the character and act as though the character was actually you. And that's what I think acting is.

So, we had a mishap on spring break, when Audrey broke her leg. I noticed that Rebecca super-helped Audrey, which is one of our mottos: to help each other. So Audrey, how did you keep going, like doing the dance, even though you had a sore foot...and were tired. What did you tell yourself to keep going?

A: Well, I told myself that I really wanted to impress my family...especially for the last show. That's the one where I was the most tired but that was the one where I think I did the best. Because I really wanted to impress my family. I didn't want to sit out of things while my family was watching..,.I just didn't want people to think I couldn't do it because I was too tired.

And Rebecca, all through rehearsals you helped Audrey. What made you want to carry her lunch bag and cheerlead her?

R: Well, she's my friend so it made me feel good to actually help her. And because I wanted her to be in the show and when she's carrying things it's hard for her to walk...and I wanted her to be able to keep going on.

Audrey, what do you want to be when you grow up?

A: I don't know. Either an artist or an illustrator for books and things.

Any ideas for you, Rebecca?

R: I want to be an actor.

Some people think little kids can't do Shakespeare. What do you think?

R: Well, in the beginning, it's hard to understand what they're trying to say but when you hear it a lot, you start to understand that like 'thy' means me...like stuff like that...you just start to understand what they're saying.

A: I agree with Rebecca that, like, it's hard at the beginning because you don't really understand Elizabethan speech, and then you get to know and then it gets easier to say things. And sooner or later you start to understand most Elizabethan speech.

Do either of you have any tips to make Shakespeare Club better?

[both give this a think]

R: Well, I just have a comment really fast.

Sure...take your time.

R: It's hard for me to stay still while I'm meditating. I have itches everywhere and I try to think about "be quiet," but I can't stay still....I start getting itchy and stuff.

A: It's hard for me too. I want to move my legs and things.

Okay, let me give you the upshot: meditating is hard for everybody...for adults...for everybody....It just takes practice.

What did you like best about performance day?

A: Well, I liked that we had forty-five minutes or an hour between performances because it gave us time to rest and get our energy back...because it kind of fuels us up and makes us a little bit better.

R: I liked...that we got food was one thing....That I really liked...'cause I was really hungry but...after the food it was hard for me to do the show because we all ate too much...just at the beginning. I like that we have journals because it's a way to express ourselves and that not everybody shares but some do.

A: I like that we don't have to share if we don't want to.

Did you have the best sleep the night after performance day?

A: For some reason I woke up really early.

R: Me too...but, oh, me, Peter and Audrey were all so achy from the dance.

A: I wore my Shakespeare shirt the next day and people knew I was in Shakespeare Club.

Friday, November 4, 2011

What a Difference a Year Makes

Last year, after our final performance of "Macbeth," I turned into a big whiner because I was alone with no one to celebrate with after months of hard work. I went home to a bath and was in bed before sunset.

Last year, my husband was working far across the country...Rachel was busy with visiting family...I had misplaced any friends I used to have. You can hear the whining as you read this.

This year, our performances happened to fall on my birthday — so I whined even more, in advance, to anyone within range. I made threats like "no Christmas gifts at all" and guess what? It worked.

My husband put his work on hold and flew home days before the performances to help out and, more importantly, to bear witness.

Mel and her brother.

My brother, a firefighter in Vancouver, flew down on Performance Day in time to see both the 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. shows.

My good friend arranged a flight home from New York City and arrived at our school for the 6 p.m. performance.

Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles stayed after the final show to help clean up.

My little support group feted me at a hole-in-the-wall Mexican joint with margaritas and fish tacos.

The four shows were a huge success, the kids were empowered, and here's the take-away:

Even though rule number four of Shakespeare Club is never whine....

In judicious teaspoonfuls, whining works.

And I had a happy birthday indeed.

I love the play it seemed so net. I learned that Henry dated six women. The first one was divorced. The resen why he dated the women because of a baby boy. I learnd the poems of shackspear. Thank you Ms. ryane and Ms. Rachel.

P.S. Buy Ms. Ryen hoep you have a grate life.
—Laci, 4th grade

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Who Wants Their Own Shakespeare Club?

It has long been my wish to see Shakespeare Clubs spring up across the nation, the continent, and the world.

Am I dreaming too big? You tell me.

Here's what it takes to start and run a SHAKESPEARE CLUB:

  • will
  • effort

And here's what it does not take:

  • theatrical know-how
  • Shakespearean expertise

Over my six years of running The Shakespeare Club in Los Angeles, I can tell you it's worth the elbow grease.

Adults in our school communities are wrestling with issues of schoolyard bullying, lethargic kids, reading skills and self-esteem.

Give 'em Shakespeare and shake 'em up!

Start small. Together you can discover stories, characters, and the Elizabethan world. You don't have to be an expert.

Because I can help you. Here's how:

Start Your Own Shakespeare Club

Dear Tattania,

I love you + hope you love me back.

Your eyes are as beautiful as thee + your eyes will never tell me lies + the curls in your hair look like curly fries.

I send all my love,

Nick Bottom
—Ellie, 5th grade