March is here, which means that Spring Break is fast approaching. If you’re still considering what to do with your children, you might want to check out Shakespeare 101, which Kate Lancaster of Place des Arts tells us about in this article.
Up-and-Coming Director Leads Spring Break Workshop
According to Colin Thomas, long-time theatre critic for the Georgia Straight, Kevin Bennett is “clearly an artist to watch.” Thomas dubbed him thus in a rave review of the young director’s production of Hamlet, performed at Havana restaurant on Commercial Drive last November. His up-and-coming status is just one of the reasons Place des Arts in Coquitlam is so thrilled to have Kevin back for the second year to direct the centre’s Spring Break Shakespeare 101 workshop for middle schoolers. This year, he will inspire young actors in their discovery of the Scottish play, promising to make Macbeth fun.
Just how does Kevin expect to make this macabre story engaging for tweens and teens? By using his deep love and respect for the bard to infect them with his enthusiasm, that’s how! That and getting them on their feet immediately, delving into a physical exploration of the text, character development and, literally, playing the play. At London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts Kevin learned how to use a physical approach to directing. This is what resonated most with him, and it’s what he brings to his work with kids during the Spring Break workshop.
During an interview with Kevin, his affection for the bard’s work is palpable. When asked what it is he loves about Shakespeare, the volume of his voice rises and he speaks quickly, barely pausing for a breath. “I love that it’s got everything in it. In every Shakespeare play, there’s a bit of everything: romance, violence, huge political stories and stories about families. Shakespeare delves into everything from magic and fantasy to drama, melodrama, tragedy and comedy. It becomes really fun when you explore it on your feet and start playing with it.”
When directing Shakespeare for younger actors, Kevin’s goal is to make kids realize that it’s not boring or hard, as it often comes across when students are simply reading or studying Shakespeare’s plays in school. He says, “Once you get through a few techniques, [Shakespeare] is quite simple. This workshop will use an abridged, more modern script that kids can understand.”
But again, why Macbeth for Spring Break? This dark story of witchcraft, deception and murder seems an odd choice for kids from 12 to 14. Kevin says, “It’s definitely in my top favourites of Shakespeare—lots of action; it’s kind of gory; it’s one of his best stories.” Macbeth was the original mystical fantasy; long before Harry Potter and Twilight, it was engaging audiences with its eerie tale, something that will definitely speak to today’s young teens.
As for the benefits of studying Shakespeare at a young age, Kevin believes that, especially for someone who is really interested in acting, it’s the best thing to do. He compares studying Shakespeare for the actor to studying the classics for the musician. “It’s very complicated, and all the things you need to do to make Shakespeare successful can help you in any kind of acting. Learn the technique of Shakespeare and you can do anything,” says Kevin.
Bennett’s Shakespeare 101: Macbeth Made Fun workshop takes place from March 12-23 at Place des Arts in Coquitlam. The sessions run from 9:00 am to 12:30 pm on weekdays, and there’s a special presentation on Sunday, March 25. It is open to students in grades six to eight with an interest in acting and/or Shakespeare, an open mind and a willingness to dive right in. No experience is necessary, but it helps for your kids to read the play or watch a movie version in preparation for the workshop.
What are your kids doing over Spring Break? Leave us a reply, we’d love to hear!
Place des Arts
Amber Strocel is a writer, aspiring math teacher, suburbanite, wife and mom of two. She believes in the power of the Internet to connect people, and she believes that numbers are the poetry of the universe. You can often find her knitting, sewing, volunteering, working in her garden, and sneaking chocolate when no one's looking. She blogs at Strocel.com and shares her photos on Instagram as @AmberStrocel.