Shakespeare inspires across centuries

Issue: Volume 98, Number 5

Posted: 20 March 2019
Reference #: 1H9sRg

Wellington student Maddie Brooks Gillespie has been playing various Shakespeare characters since she was a child. Now almost 16, the young actress is heading to London to take part in Shakespeare’s Globe later this year. She reflects on her journey so far.

I started reading Shakespeare when I was nine, after my grandfather, an actor, sent me a copy of Romeo and Juliet.

The story and the language captivated me. I found out about Shakespeare Globe Centre New Zealand (SGCNZ) and started volunteering for them when I was about 10.

When I was 13, I project managed a film project with SGCNZ and the Ministry of Youth Development called Shakespeare in Motion. We got young people from all over the country to come to Wellington and we created a 20-minute documentary, which I also helped to edit. It was a great experience to learn how to run a project.

I’m home-educated and I’m a part-time Te Kura correspondence student as well. This year I’m doing my Level 3 NCEA. We have an NCEA drama group made up of quite a few people who are also home-educated. I also joined Wellington Young Actors, which is an inter-school youth theatre company.

There are many similarities and differences between being home-educated and attending a five-day programme. I love hearing other students’ reactions when I meet them. Some people think it’s cool and some want to know more about how it works, so I get to share different ways of experiencing the world with people.

Perception challenges

One of the challenges is the perception that people sometimes have about what being home-educated means as the onus is often placed on me to explain the way I learn. Although this can be a challenge, I also love helping people to understand there isn’t just one way of learning.

Being home-educated has offered me the freedom to have an individualised education and to pursue my passions. My education has always been about making those the focus but I do lots of the same things as people who attend five-day programmes. Shakespeare is a great segue into lots of things around English, history and the arts.

The group that I now perform with originally started out as me really wanting to do the SGCNZ Primarily Playing with Shakespeare programme and getting a whole bunch of other home-educated people from the Wellington region involved.

I think something you learn when you perform is connection. You have to have a connection with your fellow actors, but also with the audience and with Shakespeare. I learned this from actually being on stage and from taking part in different Shakespeare festival programmes.

I’ve also learned leadership skills. This year I’m directing a piece in the festival, which has helped with my organisation and creativity.

Full circle

My grandfather passed away last year. It was just after I had been selected for the National Shakespeare Schools Production, which, in a way, felt like my involvement with Shakespeare had come full circle.

At that show I was selected to go to Shakespeare’s Globe in London, as part of the SGCNZ Young Shakespeare Company 2019. Getting the opportunity to travel to London in July is an amazing life learning opportunity for any young person, whether they have been educated at school or not. I’m the third home-educated student to be a Young Shakespeare Company member, and it’s very exciting.

These projects reaffirm for me that it’s the emotion in Shakespeare which makes it relevant today. You can be reading something that was written 400 years ago and be able to see parts of your life in the work.

Shakespeare writes about the way that humans think and interact, which is such a beautiful thing to study as a young person as it shows you how to understand the world and is a great outlet for exploring a lot of different ideas.

As told to the Education Gazette.

Maddie’s favourite learning resources

Te Kura(external link): As a Te Kura student, this is my main online learning resource. 

Shakespeare’s Words(external link): I had the privilege of attending a Ben Crystal workshop when he was last in New Zealand. Ben and his father David are world experts in Shakespeare’s original practice and pronunciation.

Shakespeare’s Globe:(external link) This is the education resource on Shakespeare’s Globe website. It is a rich source of information for learners of all ages with some really fun hands-on learning tools.

The one and only Ted-Ed(external link)! It’s such a great springboard when you're starting on a new project; they really do have videos about anything and everything.

Another well-known one that I have used a lot is Khan Academy(external link).

Smart History:(external link) An amazing online art history resource. It’s all so interesting, but my favourite is the ARCHES (At-Risk Cultural Heritage Education Series).

And of course, the National Library(external link) – a wonderful New Zealand resource.

The University of Otago Sheilah Winn Shakespeare festival is being held in 24 regions around the country from mid-March to mid-April. Year 7–13 students will perform 5 to 15-minute scenes from several of Shakespeare’s plays. Performances are open to the public.

Visit Shakespeare Globe Centre New Zealand(external link) for more information about this event.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 1:45 pm, 20 March 2019

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