The Bard’s London

With history and tradition being such important aspects of theatre, we must always try to familiarize children with the entire world of Shakespeare – rather than focus exclusively on performance. On days when rehearsals are not going particularly well, or when the children simply need a break, gather the group together for a discussion about Elizabethan London in Shakespeare’s time. Both Shakespeare of London and The Bard of Avon are excellent resources for this contextual information.

For example, you can describe the daily life of an actor in London, or discuss the vendors and buskers who crowded the street named “Cheapside” along the way to the Globe Theatre. In some of our Shakespeare For Our Children classes, we spoke of how competition for audiences was intense in Shakespeare’s day. Our children even learned how spies from other theatres would attend performances at the Globe, write down as best they could the lines of one of Shakespeare’s new plays, and then go back and try to produce their own version!

Through these glimpses of the practical, daily workings of Shakespeare’s London, the children can take their places on stage and perceive themselves as continuing on in the grand tradition of the Globe – perhaps imagining themselves really being there. Totally immersed in another time and able to take their audiences with them, the young performers set out on that great adventure of theatre with both a vision and a context.

A Marriage of True Minds

Shakespeare’s romantic couples are legendary. Romeo and Juliet, Antony and Cleopatra, Beatrice and Benedick – among so many others – continue to capture our imaginations and hearts. Yet some of Shakespeare’s most beautiful words can be found not in his plays, but his sonnets. (Read and listen to one of his most famous here.)

This beauty was born of great difficulty. In 1592, all of the theatres in London were closed because of the plague; but it is believed that Shakespeare wrote the sonnets, a collection of 154 short poems, around that time. By 1594, when the theatres reopened, Shakespeare’s poems were popular and highly anticipated. But writing for the theatre remained Shakespeare’s most enduring love, and where he devoted his genius thereafter. Shakespeare and the theatre: a marriage of true minds, as it were.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, Shakespeare For Our Children bring you one of Shakespeare’s loveliest sonnets. Highly romantic and yet accessible to children with its compelling imagery, the sonnet offers an excellent point of departure for Valentine’s class discussions. And for ideas about performance and how to capture the rhythm of the piece, be sure to listen to Janice Salzberg’s audio recording of the sonnet as an accompaniment to early readings!