How It All Began… the ImprovEd Shakespeare Story

ImprovEd Shakespeare's Tempest

In the fall of 2011, sixteen elementary-aged kids and one adult gathered together to bring an abridged version of “The Tempest” to the Texas Renaissance Festival School Days performance competition. We had no expectations; after all, Shakespeare is complex and difficult for many adults to grasp. Neither did we have an abbreviated text; we had to create our own kid-friendly adaptation. We even lacked basic theatre skills, as many of the kids were acting for their first time. Still, we did have something in common with the immortal bard: we shared a love for story. Thus, with a sense of playful abandon, and with nothing to lose, we began to explore Shakespeare.

Subsequently, something magical happened: without the sense of ‘you’re doing it wrong,’ we found that ‘we could do it right.’

At the end of the fall, confronted with the fact that our journey with Shakespeare was coming to an end, we found there was a pulse, an energy born from doing the impossible: creating a fun and wacky Shakespeare production for kids by kids.

As a happy consequence, ImprovEd Shakespeare was born. By taking away the rules and putting the learning process into the kid’s hands, we are “improv”ing how to approach Shakespeare in “ed”ucation. Honoring the idea that we learn through play, our discovery process is game-based and exploratory. We place ourselves in the same position as the audience: we’re trying to ‘get it,’ too.