Playing Shakespeare: The Tempest for Nine-to-Twelve-Year-Olds

The class is SOLD OUT! Please contact Lesley to get on a waiting list.

What: Using a few basic props (hats, cloaks, rope, foam swords!) and lots of physical activities, we explore language in ways that empower children to bring the script to life and make the characters and the scenes their own. Using Shakespeare’s The Tempest as our base text, we will take an age-appropriate approach to Shakespeare’s stories, characters, language, and theatre. The Tempest is a play (some call it a comedy) about people shipwrecked on a mysterious island, where they find–or bring—loyalty, revenge, forgiveness, love, power, friendship, adventure, just a little danger, and lots of magic. The scenes we will focus on feature hilarious tomfoolery, the requisite amount of swordplay (of course), magic, and a thrilling storm at sea.We will be sharing some of our scenes with family and friends at the end of the program, but the focus will be on building confident comprehension through engagement.

When: Sundays, 2:00 – 4:00 (snack break in the middle), Sept 15 – Dec 1 , 2019, for a total of eleven classes (no class October 13).

One class will be a field trip to see a play at Manitoba Theatre for Young People. Price of participants’ tickets included in the fee; parents and siblings welcome to attend at their own cost.

Who can enrollAnyone nine to twelve years of age; parents/guardians welcome to attend. If you think your child might benefit from the program but he or she falls outside of this age range, we encourage you to email the instructor at

Any child who likes a good Disney movie or a good YA novel will enjoy exploring The Tempest, one of Shakespeare’s best known plays. The Tempest has much to appeal to young performers with its humour, its conflict, its actions, and its keen awareness of the issues young people grapple with when they think about what it means to be free and independent. Activities will make it easy for beginners to understand and enjoy the play, while offering students who have more experience with Shakespeare opportunities to creatively apply their knowledge in short scenes they help to direct. There will also be a field trip to Manitoba Theatre for Young People (MTYP).

Why:   By introducing Shakespeare to our children when they are young, we take advantage of children’s natural ability to acquire language. Children will discover that Shakespeare is fun; that his language is easy to understand with a little help; that his characters are relatable, and that acting is about imagination, cooperation, and teamwork.

How much: $50 per registered child (includes field trip)

Facilitator: Lesley Peterson taught high school English in Winnipeg for fourteen years. Then she was a Shakespeare professor in the US, where she also brought the Bard into elementary school classrooms as a volunteer. She recently retired and now lives in Riverview.

Review: “Your enthusiasm is catching and draws young and old students. … There are many smart people in the world but few who have the ability to inspire and teach others. You are one of the rare people who can do that.” – Rachel McKelveigh, Resource Teacher, Kilby Laboratory School

Comments from participants in previous classes:I like Lesley’s teaching because she explains things well, but we can also add little things to our scenes and be creative. My favourite part of Macbeth is when we get to run around with fake swords.”- Simon S.

“I like Shakespeare class because I learned that I really like acting in the theatre. I think it’s fun to just do pretend killing and sword-fighting, because I never get to do it at home. My favourite character to play is Macduff because he is the hero. My favourite quote is ‘Turn, hell-hound, turn!’”– Harris S.

“I like Juliet, because she is brave and she follows her heart.” – Elise K.

For more information: Please contact Lesley at

What the children will learn:

  • Shakespeare is fun, and Shakespeare is for everyone.
  • Shakespeare’s language and plots are easy to understand with a little help.
  • Shakespeare’s scripts are easy to perform with a little help.
  • Shakespeare’s characters are relatable for anyone.
  • Shakespeare’s stories are about relatable topics, and many of these topics (the ones we will focus on) are age-appropriate: friendship, loyalty, competition, parent-child conflict, wanting to run away from home, rebellion, obedience, friends getting into fights, people who tease and play tricks on other people; silliness; dreams and ambitions; acceptance, forgiveness; transformation; magic. (You will find many of these same topics in such children’s films and books as Harry Potter and Beauty and the Beast).
  • Any empty space can be turned into another world through the magic of theatre.

What parents/guardians will get:

The opportunity to applaud your child in performance of scenes from Shakespeare, using Shakespeare’s original language.

Access to suggestions for resources to help encourage your children to pursue their new-found interest in Shakespeare at home.