The cast of Hamlet are standing on front of a blue curtain, they are on top of the stage stairs while a man with a guitar is on the far left. They look happy and there is a bright light.

The class of John Marshall High School's Hamlet with Mr. Adam Brock. (Photo by Melanie Orellana)

Arts and Entertainment

John Marshall Shakespeare class shakes up the stage with first play of the year

<a href="" target="_self">Melanie Orellana</a>

Melanie Orellana

May 24, 2023

John Marshall High School gave students a chance to watch Hamlet written by Shakespeare. 

Adam Brock, who teaches the Shakespeare class, shared his experience directing the production. All of the actors showed a deep passion for playing their characters. Brianna Rodriguez a sophomore who played Hamlet, and Glaiza Del Mundo a junior who played Ophelia both shared stories of acting in their roles.

Do you have any experience with film production or setting up a play other than doing it here at Marshall? 

Brock: So my theater background is that I did a little bit of this stuff in high school, some sort of theatrical competition. But I didn’t get into the theater until college and I ended up being a double major in English, literature, and theater. I’ve been on television a few times, I had a few speaking lines. As far as directing shows go which is what I do with the Shakespeare class, I did a little bit of that in college, I took a class on directing. But I haven’t directed professional theater.

What kind of mindset and strategies is needed to handle being a teacher, and director to have this play in order?

Well, organizational skills are a must and that is reflected in this goes. Something I always do is something I can work harder on. I’m an English teacher and a theater teacher. So I teach 4 English classes and Shakespeare is my one drama class, so teachers are all pretty overworked in general so it’s like really easy to say “Oh I don’t have to prepare as much for that class because I know what we are doing, we are doing this thing.”

But you do have to find time to block out and organize what you wanna do and how you wanna teach it and how you wanna approach it. I feel like looking back like I need to work on organizing a little bit more. You should be organized and I think flexibility is big too.

I would plan a whole lesson or a scene we were gonna block and then I’d be missing three kids. You sort of have to come into the room, look at it, see whose present, and then be quick on your feet and say “We aren’t gonna block act I, we’re gonna block act II and we are gonna work on these scenes.” You also have to be willing to take risks, so like when we do a monologue project I start the class by doing one myself. Showing the students that anybody can do this and trying to demonstrate what you are asking of them.

How did you motivate the students to get out of their shells and perform in front of an audience?

We build up to doing a play, we spend the first month or two of the class doing little projects. Where it’s like on day one of the class, you have to stand up and stand on the stage and just improvise and talk for five minutes. It’s like this immediate sink or swim; you’re standing in front of us, picking a topic and talking, and the only rule is that you can’t walk away unless you have talked for five minutes.

And so we’ve just tried immediately to get people out of their shells by making them stand on stage, working in pairs and small groups for a while. So we sort of build up to having an audience. Stepping it out like that helps to this idea that this room will eventually be filled with people. But it is a big leap to go from performing just for our class to performing for everybody, and ultimately I think my class did a very nice job with that. 

Do you have any feature goals for this class? 

Oh, yeah! I’d like to grow it, you know, advertise it more, and get more students interested in it. It’s always hard scheduling-wise to get students into the electives they wanna be in, you know because it’s a tough matrix to figure out to get everyone where they want. But the more interest we have in it the bigger it can get. Maybe there’ll be more than one section of it one day, and though I like doing one I can dedicate myself to it. I’d like ultimately for the school in general, this is a big throw `in the article but I’m going to be advocating this year with other English teachers to try and get the school to hire a theater teacher; to grow the entire possible theater program. 

Glaiza Del Mundo (Ophelia)

What was it like to be a part of something for Marshall?

Del Mundo: I’d never acted before, this was my first time. At first, I was a bit nervous about the Shakespeare play but after a few months of reviewing lines and being guided by Mr.Brock, I felt a little more comfortable and confident. 

What was your favorite part of the play and why?

My favorite part would have to be the scene where Hamlet and I  were having this little conflict. It was pretty intense and we sort of improvised at times, yesterday (they performed two days for the third period) when he grabbed my arm that was improvised. Yea, I liked that one it was pretty scary for me.

Brianna Lopez Rodriguez (Hamlet)

Did you connect with Hamlet as a character emotionally or mentally?

Rodriguez: Mentally no, I don’t think I really could’ve related to him or his struggle because for one he is a man. He has different motives and stuff and I’m a girl, so it was hard to mentally connect. But emotionally a lot of the emotions he was feeling could connect to very easily. A lot of his emotions were betrayal and anger and I could easily connect that to things I’ve felt. So the bridge between emotional relatability was very easy to come together with, except for mentally of course.

Was it hard to perform in front of an audience, especially knowing they are students? 

It was a bit nerve-wracking I would say, I would know these people, I would go to class and see these people in the audience. But at the same time, it was reassuring, like “Oh I know these people” so it’s not gonna be as bad. 

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