MAY 26, 1997
Sixth graders Sarah Hadley (left) and Emily Jerome present the traditional boar's head to guests at Woodmoor's Shakespeare Spring Celebration.
Photo by Deborah Stone/Northwest News.
by Deborah Stone
"Let the festivities begin!" With those words, the Shakespeare Spring Celebration at Woodmoor Elementary began, and 149 children from the PACE and TAG programs entered the school's gym in a colorful procession, dressed as Elizabethan jesters, jugglers, magicians, servants, beggars, knights, minstrels, traveling actors, musicians, fairies, wood spirits, and lords and ladies.
The gym was transformed for the evening into a castle room filled with candlelight, banners, flowers, masks, and greenery. Invited guests, many in period costumes themselves, were each announced by Town Criers as they entered through a trellis and were seated at long tables laden with apples, bread, and cheese. Approximately 400 people attended the Celebration and were treated to an evening of music, theatre, dance, and merriment as the students in their various roles roved from table to table providing various forms of entertainment.
The Celebration was the brainchild of PACE parent Betty McMurray-Hauk, who proposed the idea to the PACE staff last spring. "I wanted to be involved in a big way in my sixth grade daughter Amanda's last year in PACE, and knew that other parents were looking for some sort of drama enrichment activity," she said.
McMurray-Hauk has been the drama director at Juanita High School for the past fifteen years. Her initial plan was to teach the sixth graders about Shakespeare and focus on the play A Midsummer Night's Dream, but this quickly expanded to include all grades in PACE, as well as fifth and sixth grades in the TAG program. Last September, she began to integrate Shakespeare into the curriculum with the support and assistance of teachers and parents.
Through mini courses, students learned who Shakespeare was, and about the customs, clothing and arts of the Elizabethan society. They made heraldry crests, masks, thatched model houses, candles, and circlets, studied sonnets and 15th century songs, and explored alchemy and discoveries in Shakespeare's time.
Grades 1-3 had a writers' workshop focusing on Shakespeare's works. Primary teacher Maureen Baris said, "There was a feeling at first that perhaps this would be too hard for the kids to grasp, or that it wouldn't interest them. But they became so interested in the activities, and it was so exciting for everyone to see the learning that was taking place."
Sixth graders rehearsed a fifteen minute scene from A Midsummer Night's Dream that was performed at the event. Planning for the Celebration involved many dedicated parents who assisted with costuming, decorations, food, props, lighting, and helping the children practice their parts. "It was a collaborative effort and couldn't have been done without all the helping hands and man hours," said McMurray-Hauk.
Parents present at the Celebration were highly enthusiastic about the evening. Barbara Russell, parent of a fourth grader, said, "It's an exceptional experience that the kids will remember all their lives. I never had the opportunity to study Shakespeare as a child, so this is my introduction to it, and it makes me want to learn more."
The Celebration exceeded McMurray-Hauk's expectations, and she was overjoyed with its success, but she wished to emphasize that for her, it's the process that's most rewarding. "It's the journey there that has the true value," she said. "It's in each step along the way that we can see the building blocks take shape. These kids have shown me how amazing they are, and I know that they will take from this experience a great feeling of confidence in their own abilities."