Shakespeare is elementary in Coupeville

Julia Beumer, playing Lady MacBeth, threatens Teo Keilwitz, playing MacBeth, while telling him to kill the king. - Rebecca Olson/Whidbey News-Times
Julia Beumer, playing Lady MacBeth, threatens Teo Keilwitz, playing MacBeth, while telling him to kill the king.
— image credit: Rebecca Olson/Whidbey News-Times

Coupeville Elementary School’s Drama Club is changing the “shalls,” “doths” and “twixts” of six Shakespeare plays into language families can actually understand. The students will present the plays Friday, Feb. 17 at 9:30 a.m. and 6 p.m.

More than 100 students are participating in the production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Much Ado About Nothing,” “Twelfth Night,” “Hamlet,” “Romeo and Juliet” and “MacBeth.” Each will run 10 to 15 minutes.

What makes these fun is that they’ve been rewritten for kids. For three years, teacher Stephanie Gebhard has chosen to use books called “Shakespeare Can Be Fun,” a series that Lois Burdett wrote with elementary school students so kids can understand the stories. With present-day language and some humor, the kids get to the heart of the stories instead of getting caught up in difficult language.

Gebhard turned the books into scripts for the students. The various swords, daggers and fun costumes also serve to make the experience enjoyable for students and audience alike.

“The reason I did it the most is it gives them some early idea of what these hard-to-read plays are about so they will know when they get to the hard stuff,” Gebhard said, adding that she’s had past students tell her they’ve gotten more out of these versions than the real thing.

Gebhard, a third-grade teacher, started the after-school Drama Club nine years ago and they’ve done everything from Japanese fables to musicals.

Teo Keilwitz, who plays MacBeth, is in fifth grade so this is his third and final year in Drama Club. He said he’ll probably also act in middle and high school.

As the main character in “MacBeth,” Keilwitz had no shortage of lines to learn.

“It can be hard sometimes but eventually you go, ‘oh, that’s it,’ and get it drilled into you,” Keilwitz said.

His favorite line is a humorous moment when MacBeth says, “To be or not to be,” before realizing that’s not from the correct play; it’s a famous line from “Hamlet.”

Another of his favorite parts is “probably all the cool swords and armor,” Keilwitz said.

The plays will take place in the multipurpose room at Coupeville Elementary School, located at 6 S. Main St.

Intermission will feature Shakespearean hors d’oeuvres.

“They have a blast. This is their biggest show,” Gebhard said.

“Try to be there!” Keilwitz added.


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