Teachers: Carolina Gallegos, drama teacher
Clara Gonzalez, Y6 assistant teacher
Karen Roberts, Y6 English Language teacher
Mentor: Valerie Browne
As the project was launched, thanks to the support we received from our heads, we were privileged to count on the expertise of Ben Walden who not only came to school to perform the play, but also got eagerly involved in the whole process of the project. We were able to meet with him beforehand and share our ideas which he listened to enthusiastically and made suggestions on the way.
Previous to Ben’s arrival, the kids were asked to investigate a little bit on Shakespeare’s life so as to have a solid foundation regarding the author’s life before they were exposed to the play.
Given that these experiences are best told by those who were involved, this is what one of our 6th year students, Mia Bramer, wrote about that day.
On Thursday, Ben came to our school to tell us about and act, very fast, the story of Romeo and Juliet. Every sixth grader entered the hall and sat down in front of the stage and there was Ben. Ben was an English actor that was in Buenos Aires and came especially to tell us this story.
Everybody had to find information about William Shakespeare, the author of Romeo and Juliet. After everyone spoke about what we knew, he told us some interesting facts about William and if the facts that we told him were true or not. When he finished, Ben started telling us where this story took place, what the problems of this place were and much more.
After this first introduction, we played a game. The game rules were: First he gave us all a number from one to four. Then he said that we had to act like normal citizens walking down the streets of Verona. Then when he called out a number, like 3 for example, number threes had to act like they were very sick and about to die so the closest person to that person who was “dying” had to catch them.This game didn’t last long but it was very fun.
We then sat down close to Ben who was going to act out the play of Romeo and Juliet. No one talked, we were captured by Ben’s acting. We then split up into groups and each group had to think of questions they would ask a character. When every group finished, we went back to our spot and asked our question to Ben. What he wanted to do was that he would answer as if he were a character in the story. He answered every single question with such passion.
When he finished answering our questions we were split into two teams, the Montagues and the Capulets. Those were the two families in this story that were fighting. When he finished giving us our groups, our teachers helped us put some bandanas on our head and paint our faces. Ben put two lines of tape on the floor in the middle of the hall that were pretty far from each other, and no family could pass it. If any group passed those lines, it would be a point for the other team. Then Ben told us that the Capulets had to stand right beside their middle line and told the Montagues, to stand on their farthest line. Then Ben explained how the game worked. Whatever team was at the back, the Montagues in this case, had to yell a phrase and take a step forward. While one group was giving a step forward, the other group had to take a step back and whoever made a mistake, got a point for the opposite team. The family that gave a step forward had to be careful to avoid not reaching the front line; if any member passed it, a point would go to the other team. This game went on for two or three rounds, exchanging roles with the other group, until Ben told everyone to go to the edge of their front lines and throw the bandanas we had to the middle. Then he told us that we could pass to the other side and we had to find someone of the other group and tell them that we were sorry for everything, but if Ben or one of the teachers saw that someone was saying sorry aggressively, a point would go to the other team. After finishing this last game we all said thank you and finished this wonderful activity with Ben.
When our teacher told us that someone was going to act and tell us the story of Romeo and Juliet, I imagined a whole group of people with props and costumes but I was wrong. When I walked into the hall I did not see a group of people, neither costumes nor props. The only thing I could see was a single man. I felt confused at first but then when he started acting the play I could not believe what I was seeing. I could not believe how a single man could get your attention when he wants to, how he can suddenly change the mood and do everything with such passion. His acting was incredible and the way he answered our questions trying to be a character was fantastic. The way that he really wanted us to feel sorry when we had to pass to the other side was also great. I have never seen somebody act so well and with such passion and wanting us to take something great to our houses. I loved the way he could suddenly change from tragedy to comedy or how he could leave us with our mouths open. I really enjoyed how he could control our silence and our laughter. I just loved it! It was a wonderful experience.
Needless to say, it was very fulfilling to see the children so engaged in both the stories and the activities. They all really enjoyed the experience and it triggered a great energy towards stage 2 of the project.
Surprisingly that night we received an e-mail from Ben with a little feedback and words of encouragement. We would like to share some of the things he said:
“ The children were so well prepared, curious and engaged.(…) It was such a pleasure to spend time with you all and share something of Shakespeare’s world together. (…) I would very much like to come back and see how the work is going, if we can work that out.
In my opinion, you should be very proud of the work you are doing.”