6th Grade Shakespeare and Research for my Third Book

This fall was an exciting time of growth for my family. My oldest son graduated to middle school, and became fast friends with a wonderful, funny, creative and cool group of guys. I went back to school, too. I enrolled in the 10-week online program, Story Genius, to begin brainstorming my third book, a retelling of George Frideric Handel’s Agrippina.

As much as I love Handel’s score (well, technically, the librettist was Vincenzo Grimani) I have spent this year immersing myself in all things Ancient Rome, modern Rome, and trying to learn the language. The opera Agrippina is populated by Ancient Roman figures, including Claudius and Nero, and I’m frankly reveling in the deep and satisfying pleasure of researching a topic (and language) I am truly fascinated by. In the past, I’ve researched as necessary, and loved it because research is my idea of a good time. With my new book, as they say, it’s personal.

So, when my sixth grader balked at the idea of acting, much less Shakespeare, I agreed to volunteer for the production. One thing led to another, and suddenly I was placed in charge of designing a set that encompassed both brooding Scotland for Macbeth, and sun-swathed Rome, for Julius Caesar. (The ambitious drama teacher at my kid’s school split the 6th graders into two groups, and produced BOTH simultaneously. Yes, he is a miracle worker.)

The drama teacher said it best: “It was my hope that the main feeling the students left each day with was excitement and in the end, pride. It was very exciting to share the talent, courage, and independence these young actors possess. It is an honor to have their trust in and commitment to something that requires bravery and strength.”

My son isn’t the only one who found gems among his classmates. Several generous parents lent their time and talents (and good company) to help me create the set. I’m so proud of my son, who played King Duncan (and Duncan’s ghost) in Macbeth, and all the stellar young actors who uncovered the mysteries of Shakespearean language, and brought it to life.

What is it about seeing our children on stage that is so utterly heart-warming? Tell me about your experience in the comments. I love hearing stories about children encountering a playwright’s vision.

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