Bethlehem College Ashfield’s Year 7 English students reimagined A Midsummer Night’s Dream, adding selfie, twitter and other popular culture references to the 16th century play which they performed at their grade’s Shakespeare Festival.
Each class was given a scene from the play – a comedy of errors in which four young lovers from Athens and a troupe of amateur actors meet with the interference of fairies in the Athenian forest – to translate into modern language for the performance on Friday, July 17.
“It was a good experience,” said student Ruby Brooks, who played the character of the weaver Nick Bottom.
“Our class watched a film explaining the themes and we went through the original version with a translator [online] then chose our actors and put together our play. We learnt a lot about Shakespeare and his family in class and the Elizabethan era.”
Madeline Miholic, who played Hermia and Moonshine, said her group enjoyed bringing present day elements to their Shakespeare scene.
“We put a modern twist on it so we could understand it ourselves, and so we could get it to be more funny,” she said.
“Through the festival we got to showcase our cooking skills, our acting skills and our musical skills.”
Year 6 students from St Michael’s Catholic Primary Stanmore were guests at the event. They performed their own short play, which they wrote based on the themes of A Midsummer Night’s Dream during a workshop with Bethlehem’s Year 7 extension English class and English and Drama teacher Stacey Lindon.
The workshop allowed the St Michael’s students who are preparing for problem solving challenge Tournament of Minds to grow their improvisation skills and confidence.
The performances were followed by an Elizabethan-themed game show quiz that included questions on Queen Elizabeth, Shakespeare, the Renaissance and the Globe Theatre where many of Shakespeare’s plays were staged.
‘Wheel of Fortune’ questions showed off the students’ research and digital skills and the quirks of the era they had focused on in class during Term 2. The extension class made short, informative film clips on Shakespeare’s early life and Elizabethan history which audience members were quizzed on.
Gifted and Talented co-ordinator Paula Stott, who teaches the Year 7 extension English students said they employed empathy to better understand the play’s themes.
“We are all human beings and we have feelings, so whether it was the joy of love or sadness of rejection it doesn’t matter what era you come from, it can still be relevant to the human condition today,” she said.
“People don’t change but their value systems do. For instance, how women are treated and considered is a very different scenario to the Elizabethan era. Now women are free and independent and we encourage the girlsto make their own decisions and make very smart life choices.
“The Elizabethans didn’t often have a scientific explanation for why milk went sour or the weather was bad. They put it down to fortune, or bad luck, or that the spirits in the forest weren’t happy. There weren’t medicines or obvious answers, and they relied on magic and superstition. The students had a lot of fun with that.”