The Bard’s the thing at school festival

Renaissance women: Eighth-graders Stephanie Lau, Sahar Waheed, Cynthia Liang, and Anastasia Arkoudis show off their royal robes at the Dyker Heights IS 201 Shakespeare Festival on June 1.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Talk about old school — kids and teachers at IS 201 in Dyker Heights threw their building’s courtyard into a time warp for their ninth annual Shakespeare Festival on June 1.

Sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade students created a 17th-century English marketplace, complete with stands hawking wares referencing the Bard’s classic romance “Romeo and Juliet,” including “Juliet Jewels,” a “Masquerade Stand” dealing handmade masks, and “The World’s a Stage,” where kids learned old jester’s tricks like juggling and balancing feathers. The day even featured an appearance by Queen Elizabeth I — played by Principal Madeleine Brennan.

Drama teachers Christina Declara and Jessica O’Mahoney-Schwartz — whose students ran stands and pantomimed masked sketches — said the festival was an opportunity for kids outside their classes to learn about the great playwright and his work.

“It lets them all be a part of the arts,” declared Declara. “And my students really love coming down and interacting with all the grades.”

O’Mahoney-Schwartz said the fair was a way for the kids to have fun that actually enriched their worldview.

“They have no cultural references, they haven’t been exposed,” O’Mahoney-Schwartz said. “They get a lot of things they shouldn’t via TV and video games, but they don’t learn about art and history.”

The teachers were planning a performance of the star-crossed lovers’ tale on June 8, but state testing has now left the date up in the air. O’Mahoney-Schwartz said she hopes that the show does go on, since acting instills countless life-skills.

“It teaches reading, it teaches public speaking, it lets them be creative,” she said. “I’m crossing my fingers that we get to do it.”

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at (718) 260–4507 or e-mail him at wbredderman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/WillBredderman

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