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Shakespeare teaching ideas Performing Shakespeare for kids

Death Auditions – Give me your best Death!

I recently coached a parent who was running an after-school program, and she asked me how I do the “death auditions” for my plays.  It made me realize that I haven’t done a simple quick layout of my first day for a while, so, here it is:

Caesar1) I do a 5-8 minute, melodramatic solo performance of whatever play I’m doing.  I typically pull a few kids out, and have them die during the solo performance, they love it… I’ll always say something when they stand up after dying, “hey, dead people don’t move!”, just to keep it light and fun.

2) Then I randomly hand out parts for a simple read through (as random as you feel appropriate – some kids read better than others, and some kids really want a big part, but are not ready, so let them do this reading, so they get the feel they got the big part, even if it’s just for a little time!)

3) At this point, I say something to the effect of, “okay, now for auditions….as you can see in Shakespeare plays, people die… sooooo, it’s VERY important to have a GREAT melodramatic death!  Ok, let’s line up and everyone come up and give us your best death audition!”  Many times, kids will want to do this more than once… which I let them… it’s opening their creative side. (which is one of our goals… we want to stretch their creative boundaries!)

4) From here, I line them back up and say something like, “ok, now that there is a dead body, what do people typically do when they walk in a room and see a dead body?” (they scream!) “so, everyone line up and give me your best, ‘i saw a dead body scream!’”  (plug your ears on this one!)

5) Lastly, we line up and do our best villain’s evil laugh or witches cackle… the kids LOVE it!

6) By this time, you know who the best readers, performers, and melodramaticians (is that even a word?!) are… but, I have them all take a sheet of paper, put their name on it and list the top 3 parts they want.

Long John Silver PIrate Insult generator7) Then we do cold readings from different parts of the play. (try to make sure every kid reads a part that they want)

You are about out of time at this point, and I typically email the parents the parts sometime in the next 2-4 days.  But, if you have extra time, I’ll either break out costumes for them to play with and try on or hand out the Shakespeare Insult Generator and start having a blast with that!

Now, go break a leg! (and, most importantly, have fun!)


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By brendan kelso

Brendan is the main creative source and author behind Playing With Plays and the infamous Shakespeare for Kids series. You can typically find him inventing by day, playing with his family by night, and writing by very late night.

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