As my school year begins, so does the process of preparing for another year of Shakespeare. The preparation for the yearly production is remarkably hard work for me and the students, and throughout much of the process, I hate myself for even attempting such a difficult endeavor. But when my students perform the play for the parents, and children are speaking, shouting, and emoting the words of Shakespeare, I am reminded about how much I love the end result and the learning that has taken place throughout the year. My students will leave my class at the end of this academic year with background in many of the Shakespearean classics, as well as a understanding Shakespeare’s life and a history of the theater. They will be able to summarize the plot, explain the themes and compare and contrast the motifs in each of the Shakespearean plays that we study, and I will undoubtedly be proud of their accomplishments.
Next summer, I may write a book about my years of teaching Shakespeare to the kids. I have so many fun, inspirational, and interesting stories to share and could easily fill a couple hundred pages with them.
During the casting process for each play, I ask my students to write letters requesting the part that they want most, and I have been saving these letters for more than a decade. As I prepare for the coming school year, I took a moment to look back upon previous years and dug up some of those old letters.
Since these letters are typically written after more than six months in the school year, students begin to understand what kind of appeals might work and might not with me. Also, some of my students begin to exhibit some of my more prominent traits, and this is often evident in their letters.
Here’s a small sampling from some of those letters from the past:
BRUTAL HONESTY: Even though I don’t want to, I will work every day to try to memorize the lines so I will never mess up in the middle of the play. I don’t plan on looking stupid.
DIABOLICAL INQUISITIVENESS: I don’t really want to be the Earl of Gloucester, but I’m curious about how you plan to gouge his eyes out on stage. That will be very interesting.
POLITICALLY SAVY: P.S. You are great and powerful. P.P.S. Will the P.S. help?
SELF-AWARENESS AND AN UNABASHED SELF PROMOTION: As you know, I have a quick flash of anger. Also, I have the ability to insult and ignore people. All of these traits that I have make me a good actress.
INTIMIDATION: I don’t know how to end a letter. So just remember that I don’t mind a medium sized part but you will pay if you give me a small part.
INTELLIGENCE: By the way, you are tied for my favorite teacher ever. But you have a chance to be first on the list. Maybe.
Clever kids, huh?