Who would think a bunch of seventh graders would enjoy a two-actor version of a Shakespeare play, with a few props and minor backdrop? Nevertheless, that was just the case recently when the Kentucky Shakespeare Company performed Twelfth Night play in the Wayne County Middle School gymnasium.
The middle school students were happy to watch young Artist Educators Jon Becraft and Mollie Murk portray different characters in the humorous production as they frequently modified their costumes and at times invited audience participation during the performance.
“The actors seemed like they were very used to some of the crazier parts they were doing. Some people might have seemed like those parts were ridiculous. They seemed liked they really enjoyed their parts even if it seemed a little embarrassing to do,” said seventh grader Jabel Smith.
Kathren Crabtree was impressed by how “they could keep a straight face and stayed in character. That was good.”
The students could follow the dialect because they had studied Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream prior to the performance to give them an idea of the language and themes of Shakespearian plays.
The performance was funded by a grant written by Wayne County Middle School Teacher Juliet Perkins. It was awarded by the Delta Dental Making Smile Happen Arts in Education Fund for the Arts to provide arts opportunities in schools.
The students especially enjoyed the interaction between the actors and the audience.
“It was funny when the students went to help the actors and they were running around in the bleachers as part of the performance,” noted Alex Sanchez.
“It was cool when the actors talked to the audience during the play to make it make sense,” said Ashton Morrow.
”My favorite part was when they brought out the puppets. It was really funny. I liked how they actually worked so good together. I thought it was actually a really unique play,” added Hannah G Sexton.
“My favorite part was when the students were helping the actors with hiding in the play and the puppets were cool too, for some reason,” commented Natalie Collett.
“I loved it when the actor had the students from the audience came to help play the roles. It was like dramatically funny,” concluded Alexis Piercy.
The middle school was fortunate to benefit from the theatrical traveling performance. Studies show that incorporating drama education across the curriculum increases social awareness, improves problem-solving skills and helps students make real-life connections.
According to the Kentucky Shakespeare company, not every student learns the same, so their mission is to provide accessible drama education to all learners by tailoring their programs. This allows the company to maximize their educational outreach to students of all ages, socioeconomic backgrounds, learning styles and abilities.
The actors of the performance, Jon Becraft (left) and Mollie Murk (right)
Student Ashley Villa was called up to participate in the performance
Murk's expressive acting was appreciated by the audience
The actors had to change costume a lot to portray all of the characters of the performance
Jon Becraft serenading the audience to Mollie Murk's musical skills
Kenyon Smith (right) joined Ashley Villa (middle) with the actors on stage