CINCINNATI, Ohio— Students in Dr. West’s 9th Grade Honors English class and Ms. Hackney’s 8th Grade Honors English class were given the opportunity to write, direct and act in spinoff productions of William Shakespeare plays as part of Project 38—an initiative with the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company.
The program pairs 38 schools across the area up with actors from the ensemble theatre company to learn about Shakespeare. The students were then tasked with writing spinoff productions of popular Shakespearean plays.
“Once you got up there and the lights were on you, it felt weird, but you knew everyone out there was supporting you,” 9th Grader Hailey Fisk said. “It was really cool.”
Dr. West’s class performed a modern rendition of Romeo and Juliet, in which the characters were summoned on aJerry Springer-type talk show. Ms. Hackney’s class took onMuch Ado About Nothing, creating a prequel which told the story of the two main characters—Don Jon and Don Pedro—prior to the original piece.
“Making the props was pretty fun,” 8th Grader KaBreyah Hill said. “We got to all put in our ideas, and even though it wasn’t something we had to do, we were able to be creative and do what we wanted with the project.”
“It’s not just one person carrying the entire group. Everyone has to put in their individual parts,” 9th Grader Regan Tassell said. “Even the sign holders and prop helpers—it was all a huge part of it.”
For each of the productions, students were in charge of writing, directing, costume design, props and acting. Prior to the performance, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company actors Miranda McGee and Kenny Hamilton coached the students with performance tips.
“They made us realize that while we might feel like we’re making a fool out of ourselves, in the end if we don’t feel funny, it wouldn’t look right when we perform” 8th Grader Morgan Rainey said. “They taught us to play into the audience's emotions.”