They may have been first-time performers at the Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT), but the world was the stage for TK students who performed The Tempest on 13 February 2018. In an exciting first, grades 4 to 6 TK students performed a full theatrical production at the SRT, supported by an enthusiastic crowd of family and friends. These, my dear readers, are 10 and 11-year-old children who chose to study Shakespeare!

I say ‘study’ because from August to November 2017, we unfolded the complex Shakespearean English language, absorbed the lessons he tried to teach through his script, and started speaking ‘Shakespearean’ (even when we bumped into each other in the hallways) so that memorising lines later became a little easier. Some of our students were English language learners (ELL) who challenged themselves to undertake this huge task. In fact, they managed their schedule so that they could see me more often than the rest of the group, as they recognised they would need more time and practice to be ready for the performance. They definitely had more hurdles to overcome, but it was great to see they approached their mission with no fear at all!

Until February 2018, our students were on a mission: they showed up on time for every practice - including Saturday rehearsals. They memorised their lines, they came in a timely manner to read the play, they were enthusiastic about wanting to try the stage and to understand the philosophy. Not one of them lost their script. While on an excursion, they thought it was a good idea to review lines at 7am, and they immersed themselves in the story whilst kayaking: thinking about how they would feel if a storm like the one described in The Tempest started while they were out on the water. When it got tough, they got tougher and pushed themselves. When they couldn’t make a practice, they always remembered to send an email to excuse themselves. In other words, they all showed great responsibility at every step of this fabulous journey.

In November, we took to the stage. Some students were too nervous to step on stage at first, while some were comfortable enough to do so with a buddy. Some were daring and raring to go. TK students who were interested in participating were welcomed, and invited to join our team without any audition. This meant that there were some students who needed a little more encouragement in order to get their minds ready. After all, taking risks to achieve goals begins with the mind!

As December approached, everyone became familiar with their roles, and began memorising lines. Anyone who has done theatre before will tell you that learning lines is the easiest part. There were always a couple of students who found it harder than others. Over time, the initial burst of energy from being part of the production was waning, and the initial excitement was wearing down as the reality of learning lines, expressing themselves, cooperating with peers, being part of a small team (in a big team) all came into play. So we talked about our commitment to the performance and one another as a team, and the sense of achievement that we would feel from having tried something challenging when the moment came to perform in front of an audience. And, once again the group was excited and ready to continue.

January 2018 was a big month—a rollercoaster of emotions: excitement, fright, curiosity, happiness, anxiousness. You name it, we experienced it all,  especially on Saturdays when we met for full rehearsals with costumes and music! Each one of these little people looked out for their teammates, encouraging and guiding one another. I enjoyed playing the role of a facilitator. Students were in control, as they should be. They challenged me, they wanted more!

February was show month and the show date approached faster than we had thought. At times, anxiousness took over the excitement - and vice versa - but through it all, we remembered what we had signed up and that we wanted to shine on stage.

Then, show night arrived! Every actor was excited, arriving at least 15 minutes earlier than call time! In a flash, costumes were on, make-up was applied, and hair was fixed. Students remained as professional as they could, given their age. We did our last routine: a warm-up which included saying positive sentences out loud. We all believed that we would shine, as we had worked hard over the last 5 months in preparation for the show! Forgetting our lines was of no consequence anymore, as the children knew how to make up for little errors with a ‘prithee’ or ‘art thou’. We knew we could pull off a great performance. After all, only we knew the script, no one else did, and we were prepared and ready. But, this time we were at a professional venue, and we knew the public was coming to see us. It was time to step up our game!!

At 6pm, the Boatswain and Master had spoken their first lines. Sitting down, I could feel their hearts beat! They were enjoying this exhilaration as the students bought it all together: all the details we had discussed were expressed, voices were projected, body language was perfect, posture as the role demanded, eye contact done!

An hour and 20 minutes later, we heaved a sigh. Not a sigh of relief, but a sigh of immense satisfaction of having lived up to something we committed to five months ago. A sense of contentment engulfed each and every one of the 39 cast members. Then came the question we asked ourselves: what would we do now during recess and lunch, as there were no more rehearsals? We all did breathe a bit, and now we have set our eyes on the next production.

As Prospero the magician from The Tempest says, ‘We are such stuff / As dreams are made on / and our little life / is rounded with a sleep’. I am sure the entire crew slept well on performance night! A huge thank you to the SRT team for offering their venue to us and to the TK community, especially Ms. Melissa Costa and Ms. Sierra Laderoute, for their support.

As an added bonus, the funds raised from the sale of tickets were donated to support SOS (Save our Shakespeare): an initiative by SRT with the goal of raising enough funds to bring Shakespeare in the Park back to Singapore.  It was indeed a privilege for our students to perform at the SRT in Robertson Quay, one of the leading English language theatre producers in Asia, and one of the biggest producers of children’s theatre in Southeast Asia.

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