Laugh-A-Minute Macbeth Debuts At Mauro-Sheridan
by Allan Appel | Jun 7, 2012 4:02 pm
Posted to: Arts & Entertainment, Schools
When this 5th-grade Lady Macbeth finds her husband has come down the stairs from the killing chamber with the incriminating bloody daggers still in hand, she calls him a “MacDummy.”
Yet Shakespeare’s great “Scottish play” is not dumbed down at all in a creative and light-hearted adaption of Macbeth that was performed by two dozen 3rd to 5th-graders to an appreciative audience Wednesday night at the Mauro-Sheridan Interdistrict Magnet School.
Retaining lots of Shakespeare’s language, but not so much as to have the young kids not understand or stumble over it, New Haven Theater Company actor Jeremy Funke reduced the play to 30 minutes, added a “once-upon-a-time” style narrator to frame it, and abstracted and de-fanged the violence with kid humor. The result: a laugh-a-minute experience.
Check out this dialogue:
Witch 1: Where have you been, sister?
Witch 2: Killing swine.
Witch 3: Gross!
Witch 2: What have you got, brother?
Witch 3: I found a sailor’s thumb
Witches 1 & 2: Awesome!
Witch 3: A drum, a drum, Macbeth does come!
Macbeth: So foul and fair a day I have not seen.
Banquo: I know, right?
Macbeth & Banquo: OMG! Witches!
This is the third year Shakespeare has made a splash at Mauro-Sheridan. The original impetus for the program came out of the push for the school to rise from its current Tier II to Tier I status in the school system’s new ranking.
When interventions began to help kids who were struggling, literacy tutor Jodi Schneider found a way to have sessions that also provided enrichment for talented kids. That was three years ago.
She began with the kids just reading Shakespeare’s plays. Last year, she contacted Funke, who has been teaching Shakespeare to kids at Common Ground High School and High School in the Community through the programs of Elm Shakespeare.
Click on the play arrow for a taste of the glittery witches’ entrance and exit.
These are the youngest kids Funke has worked with. Last year, the school adapted The Tempest.
The Tempest had a cast of 12. This year twice the number were interested. Funke said he asked the kids what kinds of movies they liked to watch. “They said ‘horror.’ I said, ‘I guess we’re doing Macbeth.’‘’
His work commenced in January for an hour a week, all a labor of love. Another labor of love that Schneider orchestrated was bringing in a crew of Hopkins School kids last week to do, as their community service, the costumes, sets, and props.
The latter included some pretty fancy red cloth that the murderers pulled out of the tunics of poor Lady Macduff and her slaughtered kids. “That’s the way Shakespeare did it,” said Funke.
Schneider said many of the kids had not only never been in a play before, they had never seen one. Several come from non-English speaking homes. Both the leads said that as a result of the experience, they want to be actors.
“The best part is to be funny to others and also have serious lines,” said Jamari. It was the funny ones he delivered with the most low-key authority, and irony. His favorite: After the guards kill Duncan, he says, “My bad.”
Schneider and the Mauro-Sheridan literacy staff are about to begin a grant-writing and fundraising campaign to obtain $5,000 to continue the program next year. The aim is to make a one-of-a-kind Shakespeare adaptation an annual feature at the school.
She and Funke said the kids are clamoring for it. Those interested in supporting the effort can call Jodi Schneider at 203-430-7267.
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Mauro-Sheridan student actors and band members did a great job!! Shakespeare would be proud!
This is fantastic! “The best part is to be funny to others and also have serious lines,” said Jamari. It was the funny ones he delivered with the most low-key authority, and irony. His favorite: After the guards kill Duncan, he says, “My bad.”
That’s exactly how Shakespeare intended his plays to be acted—and understood. So often, kids and adults miss out on the treasures of Shakespeare because of the inaccessibility of the original text. Modern translations bring home the comedy *and* the tragedy. Purists may bristle, but who cares? Early exposure to Shakespeare can only be a good thing. Great job, kids!!!! What a great program!