Introducing Danielle & Michelle, Shakespeare in 30 Creators
So, I recently worked with my friend Michelle to release a collection of plays to use in the ELA Classroom called Shakespeare in 30. Since we collaborated on this project, I thought I’d take the time to talk a bit about us and how we met. It’s weird for an introvert blogger to really talk about herself, versus talking about the thing she usually talks about, you know? But I figured I owed it to you to give you some background and let you know why we’re the experts we profess to be.
I developed a love of drama in middle school and cultivated my skills in high school in Oregon. I was lucky enough to attend a high school with a strong drama program, and we did several plays and musicals per year and attended state events. I was in eight musicals, nine plays, and several one-acts during my time there. I also served on the Drama Club Board and organized our “Honor Troupe” application (and eventual award). Theatre was my life in high school.
During college in New York City and Moscow, ID, I explored other loves (particularly social dance and foreign languages). I went on to obtain a teaching degree from the University of Idaho and a Master’s in teaching Foreign Languages in France. During my student teaching, I was the Technical Director for the school musical (Grease!) and judged at the Regional Acting Competition.
While I was teaching in Puerto Rico, I directed the class play (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) and the school musical (Chicago). This opportunity really rekindled my passion for drama, and I knew I wanted to throw myself back in. When we moved to Pensacola, I joined First City Shakespeare.
Michelle also began acting in high school and was awarded a 4-year drama scholarship by The College of Idaho in Caldwell. She got degrees in English literature and philosophy before moving to New York City. While living there, she studied acting at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts and at the Sonia Moore Studio of the Theatre.
After serving two years as a teacher of English in the U.S. Peace Corps in Turkmenistan, she earned her master’s degree in education from Ole Miss and taught at-risk students in both urban and rural areas in Mississippi.
She published a novel, The Lost, in 2007 and is working on another! Since moving to Pensacola in 2008, she has taught classes at Virginia College and served as Education Director at Pensacola Little Theatre. She has been directing the Southeastern Teen Shakespeare Company since 2009.
Our Fast Friendship
Last summer, a friend told me about a Shakespeare group here in Pensacola and told me about a really cool Halloween cabaret they put on in the old hospital in town. I was hooked and looked up the first way I could get involved – Sunday improv! Michelle was the contact person. We had a very kindred-spirity telephone conversation (in which we both discussed being bad at telephone conversations!) and I went to play improv games.
Michelle is the director of SETSCO (the Southeastern Teen Shakespeare Company) and First City Shakespeare. As soon as she told me about these organizations, I knew I wanted to be involved with both. I’ve gotten some acting opportunities since then and worked with the teens on their material. I even got to be in the Halloween cabaret that originally attracted me to the group. We’re currently both in a small-cast production of Taming of the Shrew; Michelle is playing Grumio and I’m playing Kate.
The Birth of Shakespeare in 30
In November, Michelle directed a 30-minute play for the Gulf Coast Renaissance Faire. She called it “Deceiving Christopher Sly” and it is a mash-up of the induction scene from Taming of the Shrew and the play-within-a-play from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was mostly a SETSCO show, but a couple of adults filled the gaps. I, for one, played Starveling playing the moon. 😉
As rehearsed and performed the play, I realized that students and teachers everywhere needed this.
How often do we, as teachers, bemoan our lack of time to “dig deep”? With plays that come in at half an hour, we have time to rehearse and perform them as part of our regular lessons.
I pitched the idea to Michelle, and we came up with eight plays (and more to come!) under thirty minutes. Some are classic abridgements (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Tempest) that maintain all subplots. Some are “zooms” that tell only one part of the story (our version of Macbeth zooms in on Macbeth’s interactions with the witches). Others are true adaptations, like the mashup we did at the Ren Faire. Michelle also wrote an incredible adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing in which each character only speaks a word or two at a time and a lot of storytelling is done through mime.
We worked to flesh out the scripts with a full Teacher’s Guide, Director’s Notes, Close Reading activities, and resources for working with Shakespeare’s language.
It is our greatest hope that these plays find a home in your classroom and your students’ hearts. These shortened plays are some of our students’ favorite opportunities of the year, and we hope they become yours as well.
If you have any questions about the plays, please don’t hesitate to reach out. You can comment here, on TpT, or reach out on social media @nouvelle_ela.
Happy teaching, and break a leg!