(Over the coming weeks we’ll be casting an eye over the performing talents of our community’s students and teachers, as we preview some of the upcoming school shows.)
Students from the Western Academy of Beijing (WAB) will be away with the fairies this week, as they perform William Shakespeare’s magical comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
“Over forty students from grades 6-12, and a handful of ES students who have been exploring movement and characterization, will be taking part in the production,” Tom Knight, WAB High School Theater Teacher, told us. We asked how students of many nationalities and cultures coped with Shakespeare’s verse.
“Shakespeare’s language can be challenging whatever your level of English,” Knight said. “The good news is, if you treat his plays as they were intended and act the words out, they begin to make much more sense.”
The text was not the only challenge facing the cast, according to Knight.
“We have chosen to stage A Midsummer Night’s Dream in our wonderful High School building. This poses challenges because the audience won’t always be in the same place. Our actors need to be aware of their position in the space and work very hard to be heard by everyone.”
But rising to these challenges brings benefits to the young performers.
“One of the most enjoyable things about being in a play is the way that you get to know people you would perhaps not normally spend time with. It has been wonderful to see students from Middle School forge new friendships with students from High School. Like so many of the false limitations schools place on students, restricting people to working with only their immediate peers is daft. The students have really enjoyed and benefited from the broad age range of the cast for this production.”
And it’s an educational experience too.
“Quite apart from learning about Shakespeare’s fun story, students involved in a production like this learn a great deal about getting the job done,” Knight said. “They learn that every little detail counts, and that sometimes being the fairy who says nothing is the hardest job of all – you might feel like you have nothing to do but everyone in the audience is going to be watching you so you have to stay in character and make the world of the play come to life. That is tough, especially for someone new to performing. Sticking at it, working hard and pulling together are all essential to making theatre, and finally, learning to have faith in the process, in your peers and in yourself.”
Performances take place at 7pm on December 13-15, in WAB’s High School (Koi Garden). Admission is free, and tickets are available at the High School Reception desk, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos: courtesy of WAB