Education with the Summit Players

11391138_687358721370783_8398591752963004008_nBy Kelly Dillon – Two years ago my best friend Hannah Klapperich-Mueller approached me with an incredible idea: travel around to the Wisconsin state parks performing Shakespeare for free.

I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of and also knew what an incredible opportunity it would be to bring Shakespeare to children and families.

Now here I am, a founding member of the Summit Players as an actor and education director, and I could not be more excited. We decided to bring to life, Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. We are in our third weekend of shows for the summer and are thrilled at the experiences we have had so far.

Essentially, we make our way to Wisconsin parks on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Before each performance, we offer a forty-five minute workshop for children and families, and then prepare and perform for audience members free of charge. Our goal with this project was to make Shakespeare accessible, but we asked ourselves, how do we do it?

We answered this question with what became the pillars of our group: innovation, collaboration, and education. Innovation comes into play with how our production comes to life on the various stages. We have come up with creative ways to perform a multitude of different characters, utilize interesting props, and craft new costumes from pieces that can be brought in a trunk.

The collaboration portion has to do with our collaboration as a group, collaboration with the state parks, and with the workshop attendees and audience members. We value the relationship among all of these elements and how together they help develop the experience.

Finally, the education pillar is what I was most excited to get involved with.

As a current Marquette University College of Education student, I was looking forward to being able to put all of my undergraduate studies into action with this new Shakespearean project. I wanted the children to be able to access the text and begin to understand the basics about theater and Shakespeare. And thus formed our workshop: “Playing with Shakespeare: Getting Outside with Will.”

I designed the lesson plan to ensure that the children experience the language visually, physically, and socially. They read lines from the play and describe and discuss meaning. Children also act out scenes using characterizations for various words or phrases.  We also touch the surface on Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter, or versed writing in rhythm, which has to do with the number of syllables in a line of the play. We choose different prepared passages based on the age and ability level of the participants and engage them via games that get them thinking about the language of Shakespeare and how, though it may be different than what we are used to, it is not impossible to understand.

My time as a MU College of Ed student prepared me so well for this project. By having knowledge on lesson preparation, developmental levels of children, and intensive literacy courses, I was fully capable of designing an entire lesson that was both engaging and beneficial. I could not have done it without my past courses, field work, and professors. It is such an extraordinary feeling to take your college experiences and actualize them in the world around you.

We have completed about seven workshops so far this summer, and they all have been so rewarding. The other Summit Players and I would like to thank everyone for their support, and invite you all to our remaining performances this summer!

Upcoming Summit Theatre Shows:

June 26: Havenwoods State Forest, Milwaukee, 6 p.m. workshop, 7:30 p.m. show.

June 27: Kohler-Andrae State Park, Sheboygan, 5 p.m. workshop, 6:30 p.m. show.

June 28: Northern Highland American Legion State Forest, Boulder Junction, 2 p.m. workshop, 3:30 p.m. show.

July 3: Potawatomi State Park, Sturgeon Bay, 6 p.m. workshop, 7:30 p.m. show.

July 4: Rib Mountain State Park, Wausau, 6 p.m. workshop, 7:30 p.m. show.

July 5: Kettle Moraine State Forest Southern Unit, Waukesha County, 1 p.m. workshop, 2:30 p.m. show.

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