Shakespeare for the Young Actor: Characterization and Textual Exploration

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Date of Award

Spring 2012


This thesis explores a specific rehearsal method geared toward directing high school and college students in a Shakespearean play. In the process of learning skills and technique, student actors are required to train in the performance of Shakespearean text, but because his plays are rooted in poetic language, rhythms, and Renaissance English, they are often feared by young actors or viewed as a necessary evil to tackle 'somewhere down the road.' Additionally, teachers and directors of young adult performers sometimes worry that the task of mounting a Shakespearean play will be exceedingly difficult, and resort to adapting a language they feel is too complicated for both actors and audiences to absorb. However, scholars like Samuel Johnson, Goethe, Harold Bloom, and others describe Shakespeare's dense poetic language as the very source of his humanity. Likewise, directors such as Peter Brook, Declan Donnellan, and Sir Peter Hall see Shakespeare's iambic pentameter rhythm as a necessary structure that actors must embrace to uncover their characters' motivations and actions. Using these sources, other publications on voice work and actor training, and my experience as a director of adolescent performers, this thesis proposes a novel approach to directing young actors in a Shakespearean play. First, it endeavors to uncover the relevance of Shakespeare's storytelling qualities and poetry to young actors who are attempting to shape their craft as well as their individuality. Second, it studies how to choose a play best suited for young actor as well as how to cast, design, and set the piece; and thirdly, it investigates how voice work can help actors explore poetry and establish characters and their actions.


John Hanners

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Theatre and Performance Studies