Shakespeare for Kids

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Today I visited the Folger Theater, part of the Folger Shakespeare Library in downtown Washington, D.C., for the annual Children’s Shakespeare Festival http://www.folger.edu/template.cfm?cid=607&CFID=50107185&CFTOKEN=76731664. Held each spring, this fantastic event exposes elementary school kids to Shakespeare’s plays by letting them take to the famous stage themselves. For several decades, the event has hosted kids in grades 3-6 from local schools, who perform twenty minute excerpts of some of the best known plays. And though the festival is mostly for students, I was lucky enough to attend this year to see my niece and nephew act in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. As I sat up in the balcony watching the kids hamming it up in Shakespearean dialogue, I realized what a gift the Folger has given the Washington, D.C. area. Even to adults, Shakespeare can seem forbidding with its strange phrases and arcane vocabulary. But when students start to understand what’s being said — mostly by saying it themselves — they get to experience the humor, action and drama that still grabs audiences today. I loved watching Oberon plot to make a fool of his fairy queen, and so did the audience of eight to eleven year olds. And we all laughed when Bottom came out wearing a horse’s head. Great stories never get old, and it’s nice to see a whole new group of people — very young ones — finding that out to their tremendous delight.

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