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

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

Analysts say move by President Xi is an effort to win more party support, take step toward economic reforms, removing those who would stand in way of change More

South Africa Land Reforms Still Contentious 20 Years Later

Activists argue that the pace of land reform is slow and biased; legal experts question how some proposed reforms would be implemented More

In Vietnam, Religious Freedoms Violated, UN Finds

Beliefs reportedly prompt heavy surveillance, intimidation and travel restrictions 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.
Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelteri
X
Scott Bobb
July 30, 2014 8:16 PM
Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video A Summer Camp for All the World

VIDEO: During workshops and social gatherings, the Global Youth Village summer camp encourages young people to cooperate and embrace their differences, while learning to communicate with people from other countries. VOA's Deborah Block has more.
Video

Video From Cantankerous Warlock to Incorruptible Priest, 'Harry Potter' Actor Embraces Diverse Roles

He’s perhaps best known as Mad Eye Moody, the whimsical wizard in the Harry Potter franchise. But character actor Brendan Gleeson's resume includes dozens of films, and he embraces all the characters he inhabits with equal passion. In an interview with VOA’s Penelope Poulou, Gleeson discussed his new drama "Calvary" and his secret to success.

AppleAndroid