Teaching Will: What Shakespeare and 10 Kids Gave Me that Hollywood Couldn't

Teaching Will: What Shakespeare and 10 Kids Gave Me that Hollywood Couldn't

by Mel Ryane

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Teaching Will: What Shakespeare and 10 Kids Gave Me that Hollywood Couldn't by Mel Ryane

What happens when an idealist volunteers to introduce Shakespeare to a group of unruly kids? Bedlam. Tears. And hard lessons learned. Convinced that children can relate to Shakespeare's themes—power, revenge, love—Mel Ryane launches The Shakespeare Club at a public school. Teaching Will is a riotous cautionary tale of high hopes and goodwill crashing into the realities of classroom chaos.

Every week Mel encounters unexpected comedy and drama as she and the children struggle toward staging a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Woven through this fish-out-of-water tale is Mel's own story of her childhood aspirations, her acting identity, and the heartbreaking end of her onstage career.

In the schoolyard, Mel finds herself embroiled in jealousy and betrayal worthy of Shakespeare's plots. Fits of laughter alternate with wiping noses as she and the kids discover a surprising truth: they need each other if they want to face an audience and triumph. Teaching Will is an uplifting story of empowerment for dreamers and realists alike.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781939629432
Publisher: Familius
Publication date: 08/12/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 6 MB

About the Author

Following a distinguished career as a classically trained actor onstage and in film and television, Mel Ryane has found a new artistic home in the written word with her memoir, Teaching Will: What Shakespeare and 10 Kids Gave Me That Hollywood Couldn't.

Mel became a professional actor during her teens in her native Canada, then followed her career to New York City and to theatres across North America. After applying her skills to coaching actors on major studio and network projects, Mel was accepted into the Directing Workshop for Women at the prestigious American Film Institute. She subsequently wrote a screenplay that advanced to the semifinal round in the Motion Picture Academy's Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting competition.

Mel travels across the country teaching "From Page to Podium: Reading Your Work Aloud," a workshop that helps writers find their public speaking voice. She also offers school workshops introducing Shakespeare to students. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their dog and cat.

Table of Contents

• Chapter One: The School of Soft Knocks
• Chapter Two: My Kingdom for a Flute
• Chapter Three: Everyone Has a Price
• Chapter Four: Party to the Party
• Chapter Five: Winter Breakdown
• Chapter Six: Wits' Witless End
• Chapter Seven: Cast Away
• Chapter Eight: Prop Me Up
• Chapter Nine: A Rock and a Very Hard Place
• Chapter Ten: Miles to Go
• Chapter Eleven: A Lonely Business
• Chapter Twelve: What Shakespeare Meant by Hamlet
• Chapter Thirteen: The Actor's Burden
• Chapter Fourteen: War Declared
• Chapter Fifteen: 442 Years Old
• Chapter Sixteen: Hitting the Wall
• Chapter Seventeen: What Fool This Mortal Be
• Chapter Eighteen: Cryin' Bad
• Chapter Nineteen: "I Always Knew I Wanted to Be an Actor—My Whole Life!"
• Chapter Twenty: And So . . .

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Oh! For a muse of fire that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention! Mel Ryane is that fiery muse for a group of mischievous kids in a L.A. public school. What a terrific story, funny and brave! Shakespeare gives his actors a glimpse into their humanity, teaches them patience, and fosters their courage. Mel Ryane does the same for her wayward students, and they return the favor. Bravissima! How do we make Shakespeare Club mandatory for every school in North America? ~Len Cariou, Tony Award Winner, Member of the Theatre Hall of Fame

Helen Hunt

"Teaching Will sings with honesty, adventure, humility and humor. Only someone who loves Shakespeare would dare to do what Ms Ryane did and dare to write about it. The book is a joy." —Helen Hunt


"Teaching Will sings with honesty, adventure, humility and humor. Only someone who loves Shakespeare would dare to do what Ms Ryane did and dare to write about it. The book is a joy." —Helen Hunt

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Teaching Will: What Shakespeare and 10 Kids Gave Me that Hollywood Couldn't 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this expecting it to be good, BUT I was transfixed by the story, the humor, the honesty that prevailed throughout.  I did not want to  put it down!  This is a disciplined author, who takes us into the story of working with children to put on a Shakespearean Play at the public  school. It's a regular kind of story, but the growing pains of all--children and volunteer teacher, are written with humor and compassion  and a deep understanding of the human condition. It's laugh-out-loud funny!! Somehow the pain of jealous little girls and hyper-active little boys, within the themes  of Shakespeare, brings compassion.... and love.  A must read!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a funny, thoughtful book about the power of sharing and learning. Dare to share and you will learn. In this lively account of wrangling rambunctious children into a Shakespeare club, over and over again, Melody captures the thrill, terror, pain and delight of stepping out of your comfort zone. As a neophyte teacher, she candidly describes her own terror confronting the wild energy of children who bring to the classroom an array of personal problems. With big humor and generous heart she captures the courage of children stepping into the world of Shakespeare, which she makes so accessible, acting with their big voices and being more fully themselves. She does all this in crisp, elegant writing that is shaped with intelligence, a deep knowledge and love of Shakespeare, a profound understanding of what it means to ACT and laced always with wry, delicious , self-deprecating humor. I laughed out loud a lot. I came to love the kids and the author for their mutual persistence to be bigger, braver and more generous people, inspired always by the beauty of Willy the Shake. You will wish you could join the Shakespeare Club.
CLBluestein More than 1 year ago
Teaching Will by Mel Ryane. I loved this book. Can a non-credited volunteer teach Shakespeare to children who can barely keep their butts in a seat?  In a world where it is so hard to make connections, Mel Ryane shows us how, through humor, compassion, confusion, desperation, and humanity. She intersperses the growth of the children's inner actor with  that of her own memories in the world of acting. She brings new meaning to "being there."  I was "there" with her and the children every step of the way. Everyone who has ever faced  an impossible task without a full set of tools, will recognize the perils and the fortitude necessary to do it anyway. PS I was so impressed with the children who, despite the chaotic class, decided to explore the Elizabethan world and the world of William Shakespeare on their own.  It goes to prove we never know how far reaching our effort are. Kudos, Mel Ryane.
Maggie-M1 More than 1 year ago
Teaching Will is a beautifully written, funny and unexpectedly poignant story that should be on the must-read list for teachers, actors, writers, and anyone who has or works with children. Mel Ryane, a classically trained actress with no formal teacher training, decides to volunteer at her local public school by forming a "Shakespeare Club" to teach third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders the works of the Bard. The task seems gargantuan: many of the kids come from non-English-speaking homes, quite a few are there simply to avoid after-school activities or care-givers they dislike even more, and discipline appears to be a non-existent concept. As Ryane becomes increasingly frustrated by their chaotic attempts at rehearsing A Midsummer Night's Dream and her inexperience as a teacher, she questions her motivations and level of delusion. Intertwined throughout is the heartbreaking story of the rise and fall of her own acting career. The two threads are skillfully woven, showing us the depth of her commitment to the theatre and how acting transformed her as a child and young adult; a transformation she would love to pass on to her unruly charges, if only she could get them to listen to her for longer than three seconds. The story builds beautifully as she chronicles the weekly challenges: from musical-chairs casting to playground bullying to her ongoing search for new ways to cajole, bribe, and ultimately inspire the kids into compliance. But as these budding thespians grow to accept and respect her guidance (and each other), the magic Ryane had hoped to impart to her Shakespeare Club members comes back to her a hundred-fold. Ryane's voice throughout Teaching Will is smart, honest, and laugh-out-loud funny. Her willingness to reveal her own shortcomings and naiveté in taking on such an ambitious project provides many of the funniest moments in the book, as do the Club members' curiosity about Elizabethan times and Ryane's connection to them: Ryane: "Shakespeare lived over four hundred and forty years ago." Club member: "Did you know him?" Unlike the kids, my attention was unwavering from the very first meeting of the Shakespeare Club—so much so that I read the entire book in one sitting, a rare occurrence for me (and tears were shed, I admit it). What Ms. Ryane and her band of merry players manage to achieve by the end of the story is extraordinary; what Ryane achieves in the telling is no less so: a richly-textured, compelling memoir brimming with humor and humanity.
Anniewhoo More than 1 year ago
Teaching Will: What Shakespeare and 10 Kids Gave me that Hollywood Couldn’t, by Mel Ryane chronicle’s Ryane’s first attempt to run an afterschool Shakespeare club in an L.A. public school. Ryane’s candid and loving reflections of herself and her students grab the reader in the very first pages. I cheered for Ryane and these kids throughout the book, hoping they would all stick it out to the end. As a teacher, I appreciated Ryane’s discovery of just how difficult it is to get a group of children to do just about anything. With no formal elementary teaching experience, Ryane learned on the job and made such profound revelations along the way. Her love for these children and the craft of acting is present on every page, from the parties she used to encourage the kids to keep with it, to the sad moments when she had to tell a child the club was not for them. This book illustrates the difficult decisions a teacher must consider every single day. Few of them have anything to do with lesson plans but rather how to speak (and listen) to a child to help her learn and grow from the experience. I recommend this book to any teacher or parent. You will shake your head knowingly as you read, but you will also be touched by the tenderness with which Ryane navigates her way through the classroom. Brava, Ms. Ryane!