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.