From Winedale to the Web: UT introduces Shakespeare Web site for kids

May 26, 2006

AUSTIN, Texas—The University of Texas at Austin has introduced “Shakespeare Kids,” an educational Web site featuring a “Do Your Own Shakespeare” guide for families and a toolkit for elementary and middle-school teachers.

“Shakespeare Kids” sets the stage in the year 1600 as William Shakespeare creates a daring new theater company composed entirely of children. The Bard needs players to complete the cast of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Children pick their own parts—from the mischievous Puck to love-struck Hermia or the comically named Nick Bottom. In addition to providing scenes from the play, the site offers kids insight into their characters’ personalities and language styles and tips for setting the stage for their own performances.

“You make Shakespeare yours when you encounter it through performance,” says Clayton Stromberger, educational outreach coordinator for the College of Liberal Art’s Shakespeare at Winedale program.

Stromberger visits elementary and middle schools across Texas, collaborating with teachers to incorporate Shakespeare performances into their curriculum. He’s discovered it may take some time for young students to learn the language, but kids are natural performers who love to bring the plays to life.

“Fourth and fifth grade is an ideal time because the children like to play,” says Stromberger. “They relish the language and they’re not self-conscious. They don’t realize they’re learning while they’re having all this fun.”

The idea that the best way to learn Shakespeare is to perform it, rather than to read it, is a central component of Shakespeare at Winedale, which director Jim “Doc” Ayres founded in 1970. In addition to its university-level program, the College of Liberal Arts program offers Camp Shakespeare to children during the summer.

Stromberger brought the Winedale program to the Web because he was disappointed with the lack of online resources for kids. He collaborated with Guy Kingsbery at the university’s Design Center in the Office of Public Affairs to create “Shakespeare Kids,” which is part of the university’s UTOPIA Web site. He plans to expand the site’s offerings to include more plays and audio and video clips from kids’ performances.

For more information contact: Clayton Stromberger, educational outreach coordinator, Shakespeare at Winedale, 512-471-4726.