Shakespeare as therapy

For many students, Shakespeare isn’t far removed from punishment.

At a novel program in Massachusetts, it actually is punishment.

The Berkshire Eagle today carries the profile of Shakespeare in the Courts, a program that’s been underway in the western part of that state for the last 13 years.

Juvenile courts in the county send the kids to the program, instead of to lockup or requiring community service. Instead, the kids have to attend workshops for six weeks, and then put on an hour-long play. Tonight, they perform Macbeth.

“But then you realize you’re here, so you make the best of it,” Jose Alicea, 16, told the paper.

In a profile of the program in 2010, the Boston Globe noted — twice — that Shakespeare doesn’t fix the kids.


The exchanges were typical of the adults’ approach: a bit of humor, some no-nonsense toughness, and plenty of support. Also typical was the way O’Connor later helped Monet learn some lines.

“You’re imagining the guy lighting the fuse on a cannon,” O’Connor told her. ” ‘The nimble English gunner with linstock the devilish cannon touches.’ Boom! We’ll have a big explosion there. ‘And then goes all before them.’ You’re saying, ‘Please imagine that we’re better than we are.’ ”

Monet nodded and tried the line again. At “the devilish cannon touches,” she dipped her sword to light the fuse. And there she was, for a moment, a Shakespearean actor on a renowned Shakespearean stage.

“You don’t fix these kids,” Coleman reiterated later. “But this is so hard and so scary — and it’s so much about them — that they change.”

Here’s a nice piece from Boston’s WBUR on the program:

  • jon

    Juvenile thespian gangs formed to commit crimes in exchange for free acting lessons!

    Two rival thespian gangs today had an elaborately choreographed rumble in the heart of downtown. Those familiar with the situations Identified the gangs as the Sharks and the Jets.

    Rumors at press time indicate the fight was over which gang liked to be in America. More on this story as it develops.