News / USA

Juvenile Offenders Sentenced to Shakespeare

Massachusetts teens who act out can end up in drama camp

Tim has discovered there are some aspects he enjoys about performing Shakespeare, especially the sword play.
Tim has discovered there are some aspects he enjoys about performing Shakespeare, especially the sword play.

Multimedia

Audio

For most American teens, performing Shakespeare is an optional activity. For some teens in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, the course is mandatory.

"Some people are here for worse reasons than others. I'm here because of assault and battery," says Tim, 15.

Tim is among 12 teens sentenced by a juvenile court judge to participate in the Shakespeare in the Courts program. "The judge sentenced me here, so my first thoughts were, 'Shakespeare is not my thing. I'd rather not.'"

He decided the punishment could be worse. He could be picking up trash or be locked up.

Developing trust

More than halfway through the five-week program, Tim has discovered there are some aspects he enjoys about performing Shakespeare, especially the sword play.

"Assault and battery and you hand me a sword in Shakespeare? No, I didn't think that was going to happen at all. I'm glad they trust us, though."

The trust and respect director Kevin Coleman shows his young actors is returned in full. The teens clearly enjoy working with him. He has them singing in Latin, dancing to Elizabethan music and inspires them to embrace Shakespeare.

"If you present it to them in a way that engages their imagination, that engages their playfulness, that engages their willingness, they really come alive," Coleman says.

Coleman is director of education for Shakespeare and Company theater in Lenox, Massachusetts. He was first approached to develop a theater program for students more than 30 years ago by Paul Perachi, the principal of a local high school.

Kevin Coleman is director of education for Shakespeare and Company theater in Lenox, Massachusetts.
Kevin Coleman is director of education for Shakespeare and Company theater in Lenox, Massachusetts.

Perachi later became the first presiding juvenile court justice in Berkshire County.

"As soon as that happened he called me up and said, 'This thing we did in the high school, doing Shakespeare with kids, could we do that with the court kids?'" says Coleman.

"When I became a judge," Perachi says, "I thought, these are the same kinds of kids I saw as a principal, they just come before me under different circumstances." He thought that working with professionals at Shakespeare and Company would help them develop self esteem, communication skills and manage their anger.

A decade and more than 200 teens later

The first group of teens went through the program 10 years ago. Since then, more than 200 kids have been sentenced to Shakespeare, and the program has received wide-spread recognition, including a 2006 award from the White House.

There are success stories. One individual Perachi describes as "a rather violent offender" is in her third year of college.

"Even if we only have a few [successes]," he says, "it is worth it."

Kate, 17, gets fitted for her costume for Henry V.
Kate, 17, gets fitted for her costume for Henry V.

Perachi stepped down from the bench last year when he turned 70, the mandatory retirement age for judges in Massachusetts. But teens continue to be referred to the program, and Shakespeare in the Courts is still going strong under Coleman's direction.

His goal is for the kids to complete the program. Not all of them do. Some are asked to leave when they don't participate.

"They come in with a backpack full of hurt and resentment and fear and injustice," Coleman says, adding the program "is not about fixing them." He says many of them will probably get into trouble again. "Will they get into as much trouble? No."

Judge Paul Perachi, now retired, conceived of the Shakespeare in the Courts program, which he says develops good citizens.
Judge Paul Perachi, now retired, conceived of the Shakespeare in the Courts program, which he says develops good citizens.

Positive changes

That's because the teens do change.

Tim says the program has given him more patience. "How long it takes us to do scenes sometimes, we've got to be patient and get through it."

That alone may prevent Tim from ending up in court again.

All of that patience and hard work definitely pay off at the final performance, says Judge Perachi. "A lot of these kids invite their teachers of all people, and their lawyers. And their relatives and the teachers and all are proud of these kids. Everybody has got big smiles and flowers for the kids and little gifts."

For many of the young actors, it's the first time they have been praised for an accomplishment.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Urges Restraint in Hong Kong Protests

Protesters angered by Beijing's decision to only approve candidates that it sanctions for Hong Kong's leadership elections in 2017 More

Archive of Forgotten UCLA Speeches Offers Snapshot of History

Recordings of prominent voices in social change, politics, science and literature from 1960s, early 1970s now available on YouTube More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenyai
X
Gabe Joselow
September 29, 2014 6:20 PM
Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Video

Video Reconstruction? What Reconstruction? Life After War in Gaza

It’s been a month since Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire to end 52 days of an air and tank war that left 60,000 homes in Gaza damaged or destroyed and 110,000 homeless. Sharon Behn reports that lack of reconstruction is leading to despair.
Video

Video US, Saudi Arabia and UAE Hit Islamic State's Oil Revenue

The United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have bombed oil facilities operated by Islamic State militants in Syria. It was a truly collaborative effort, with the two Arab countries dropping the majority of the bombs. The 12 refineries targeted were estimated to generate as much as $2 million per day for the terrorist group. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb has the story.
Video

Video Russia's Food Sanctions Raise Price Worries, Hopes for Domestic Production

Russia retaliated against Western sanctions imposed for its actions in Ukraine by halting food imports from the West. The temporary import ban on food from Australia, the European Union, Norway and North America has Russian consumers concerned that they could face a sharp increase in food prices. But in an ironic twist, the restrictions aimed at the Kremlin have made Russia's domestic food producers hopeful this can boost their business. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid