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

Turkey's Erdogan: Women Not Equal to Men

Speaking at conference in Istanbul, President Erdogan says Islam has defined a position for women: motherhood More

Ahead of SAARC Summit, Subdued Expectations

Some regional analysts say distrust between Pakistani, Indian officials has slowed SAARC's progress over the year More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project 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.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid