Leila Fletcher: What Young Shakespeare Players Taught Me
by Leila Fletcher, age 12
When I was five my mother took me to an introductory rehearsal of The
Tempest at the Young Shakespeare
Players theater. My mom talked to the directors and read pamphlets;
she was scoping out the program to see if it was something I’d like
to do in a few years. But when she decided it was time for us to
leave, she found me, of all places, on stage introducing myself and
saying I wanted to be in the play. Richard DiPrima, the founder and
director of Young Shakespeare Players (YSP), told my mother, “The
readiness is all,” a quote from Hamlet. Even though the age minimum
to perform was seven, he encouraged me to join. I recently completed
my 11th production, Will & Sid Ride Again, and am about to start on my
you enter the YSP building you are greeted by walls of framed
photographs of the many children who have improved their confidence
and literacy by performing works of Shakespeare and other brilliant
playwrights. There is a picture of me on the wall from that very
production of The Tempest,
as Iris. I learned to read by participating in that play.
normally start rehearsal with some vocal warm ups. Then, we all sit
in the first three rows and rehearse different scenes from the play.
I sometimes sit next to the newer kids to show them how to be
respectful of the actors on stage and stay focused during rehearsal.
remember being the youngest kid in the show. I looked up to the older
actors. They were friendly and knew a lot about acting; I wanted to
be like them. As I grew, new kids joined and I helped them to
memorize lines and deliver them with the correct emotion. Through
acting I was able to experience different lifestyles like that of a
pregnant mother and of dying old man. I explored extremes – playing
a goddess and then, a humble woman who specializes in reality checks.
year I also had the opportunity to attend a focused college-level
workshop at a college level about Shakespeare’s rhythm. Through
Young Shakespeare Players, I have learned so much about the English
language. Now, Shakespearean English is like a second language to me.
I learned that many people use phrases from Shakespeare without
realizing it, like “break the ice,” “catch a cold,” and
“Knock knock! Whose There?” It’s fun to know which play each
phrase is from and which character originally said it.
Shakespeare Players was one of a kind until a veteran of the program
in Madison started another youth acting group on the East Coast. Now
even more children in America can take advantage of this unique
opportunity to gain confidence in their reading, writing and speaking
skills. This group gives local kids a chance to prove that with hard
work and enthusiasm if they work hard, they can do justice to
unabridged works of Dickens, Shaw and Shakespeare.