Friday, January 11, 2008

Middle School Macbeth

Tomorrow my current Middle School residency comes to an end with our culminating performance of Macbeth. I've gotta say, there are moments when I watch my wee ones saying the lines and I suddenly flash back to the smelly room with the horrible grey carpet at Smith, and all those exciting, alive moments you all found when we were working on that play. I keep remembering NITS colleagues playing the various roles and it always makes me smile. Jen-you are still my Duncan!

Since we were talking a while back about fitting more kids in our plays to increase participation, I thought I'd share how I managed to get 50 kids into this production. I split the major roles to ensure that no child had more than 50 lines of text to memorize. (We had five weeks to put the whole thing together--including tech and auditions. yikes.) We've got 5 Macbeths, 3 Lady Macbeths, and 2 Macduffs. But I still had 12 kids who needed roles, so I created a prologue filled with "Ghost Soldiers." Why are they ghosts? Because it's cool to be a ghost, and it was an easier sale than simply saying "you have these two lines." So I made up all kinds of military ranks (my favorite of which is 'Subaltern') and added the prefix "Ghost." In the prologue, the Ghost Soldiers speak text from the play--mostly the witches' prophecies and other bits of advice that people give Macbeth. Add dramatic lighting and creepy music, and Voila! "Was that the best Ghost Soldier Prologue you've ever seen in a production of Macbeth?" the Ghost Ensign asked me the other day. "Yes," I responded truthfully. I will not be there when she cracks open an unedited copy of the play, but it's going to be rough.

We also had an effective tech project I'll share in case anyone is in need of giving tech kids a project. I made them go through the script and seek out interesting images and words. They then drew pictures based on what they'd found "full of scorpions is my mind," "a moving grove" "the charmed pot" "look like the innocent flower but be the serpent under it." And one boy drew a skull wearing a crown with eyes filled with FLAME. It was not from the text, but he was super-excited by it, and I was too. Then they scaled up their drawings onto butcher paper, cut out the patterns, traced them onto black fabric, cut those out, and finally glued them on to banners. I sewed dowels into either end, and we hung them for our set. (You can sort of see them in the picture.) I'm skimming over the day when I had to help them to create images that would work in silhouette, but overall, it was an easy project and a cheap way to fill a large space. (thank you $1/yard fabric table at Wal-Mart!)

Hope you are all well. Welcome Trish! (sorry it took me so long to get your email to Amanda, but I'm delighted that you are here. I'm still bummed that I didn't get assigned to help with the residency at your school, but I hope you'll tell us all about it here.)


At 8:40 AM, Blogger Walker said...

I am absolutely using that tech project with my senior english class when we do Macbeth next semester!


At 1:36 PM, Blogger Cari Turley said...

you are the greatest teacher ever. it sort of blows my mind.

At 5:37 PM, Blogger trish said...

Meg, I am so excited to be on. I love what you did with Macbeth-I have done some of those things in the class, it is amazing what the students come up with. As for the residency, it was sooo fun. I loved having everyone come and play with the kids (and the teachers). In some cases, the teachers were more difficult than the students! I have come to realize that, at the moment the only green world in my school is with me after school at Drama or with my colleague in her class. Being special ed, I don't get my own class, so I am at the mercy of another and my team teachers this year are NOT green.

At 12:11 PM, Blogger Christine said...


I am so enjoying reading about your adventures with S&Co!

I've just applied to take my students to the AHTF in Edinburgh in 2009. I really hope we're selected to attend. Didn't you go? Didn't you do The Servant of Two Masters?

I'm thinking of doing STM with one of my groups this school year so if you have any advice on Signor Goldoni or the festvial, please share!

You sound like you're happy to be back home. Hope to make it to amazing Mass again soon.


At 7:54 PM, Blogger Meg O'C said...

Congratulations on AHSTF! And don't worry--you will be selected, trust me. From everything I know and saw about your program, you haven't got a bit of worry.

I love STM, especially the Constance Cogdon translation and the Dorothy Louise (which is the one I used).

Send me an email and I'll be happy to answer questions about Edinburgh, and Goldoini if I can. Just got my script for the mini-tour of "Shakespeare and the Language that Shaped a World" this spring. I love a challenge, but--me performing? yikes. Let me know what you are up to- I hope all is well!


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