More than 40 students at Garden Hills Elementary School brought William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” to the school’s stage March 19 and 20, marking the school’s 15th year of producing the Bard’s plays.
Normally limited to third- to fifth-graders, the production this year was opened up to all grades. The result was a production featuring 42 parts for two matinees for fellow students and one evening show for parents and alumni.
The series is a partnership between Garden Hills and Brookhaven-based Georgia Shakespeare’s Play Production Residencies program.
The productions, which boil down Shakespearean plays to about 45 minutes, provide immeasurable benefits to the students, Garden Hills Principal Amy Wilson said. “If you expose them to this, they can do a lot more than we think they can do.”
Fifth-grader Rachel Bittner, a seasoned pro of Shakespeare at Garden Hills, landed the lead role of the sorcerer Prospero, becoming the sorceress Prospera.
“We’re able to understand Shakespeare a lot because Joshua (Waterstone, the director from Georgia Shakespeare) explained the plays to us,” Rachel said. “It’s so fun working with the other students onstage. And I can take Shakespeare and use all the interesting words in my language arts classes. It helps a lot.”
The group effort is the key, said Waterstone, the company’s instructor for residencies. “They’re able to provide creative input in something they can show to their peers and their parents, and by the end of it they can personally say they had an idea that went onstage.”
The success of the program has drawn interest from other Atlanta public schools, including Buckhead’s E. Rivers Elementary.