It was poetry in motion as Shakespeare fans both young and old gathered together recently at the Pape public library branch in East York for a kids’ library club stage play to mark the 25th anniversary of “Shakespeare in Action.”
“When it comes to learning for children, I think the only way you can do it is get them on their feet and speak it aloud on stage and enjoy the words and meaning,” said the artistic director and founder of Shakespeare in Action, Michael Kelly. “That’s what we’re doing with Shakespeare.”
Created in 1988, Shakespeare in Action offers kids from elementary to high school a place to actively engage in stories like Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet. This is done through stage plays and acting workshops. According to Kelly, Shakespeare and literature generally are important for students to learn, and SIA uses these plays as active learning tools. And they help shake off some of the fear students have about Shakespeare’s use of old English.
“Shakespeare has always been something of a mystery to young people and seems to overwhelm with the stories and language,” Kelly said, “so I wanted to steer that type of thinking into something helpful.”
Judging by the looks of excitement from the kids in attendance, his mission was accomplished. In the small room, SIA’s actors helped kids who had trouble reading some scenes re-enact different scenes from Macbeth. Off in the corner, other kids were reading everything from King Lear to Tempest for fun.
Adriano Sobretodo, guest artist facilitator for the Shakespeare library club — who helps with the readings as well as acting — said Shakespeare stories are special because of their exciting stories and relatable characters.
“There’s a lot of magic that’s happening in these stories and a lot of things that the kids can visualize quite easily which keeps them so engaged,” said Sobretodo.
According to Kelly, that is exactly the point.
“Kids understand great stories and the beauty of this is that Shakespeare is one of the world’s greatest storytellers,” Kelly said, “and that’s why these stories are told over and over.”