How teaching Shakespeare to middle schoolers transformed a struggling actor

Mel Ryane and her new book at KCRW
Mel Ryane and her new book at KCRW

Mel Ryane, a classically trained actor, thought the idea seemed simple enough: Volunteer at a local public school to teach kids an appreciation for Shakespeare. Share the joys of literature and the Bard’s life lessons with kids who might not otherwise learn them. Her time on the stage had to have prepared her for the task–no? Well, it turns out, definitely not. Nothing could have primed Ryane for the terror and ultimate joy of wrangling kids in a classroom.

She’s written a book about her transformation from actor to trainer, and the lessons she’s learned in the six years she lead The Shakespeare Club: That volunteering is less about what you give, than what you get. That while not all actors win Oscars or acclaim, there is joy possible outside of “the business.”  And that kids love the drama of Macbeth and Hamlet.

She came to KCRW today to talk about “Teaching Will: What Shakespeare and 10 Kids Gave Me That Hollywood Couldn’t.”

You can read an excerpt of Ryane’s book here.

Watch videos of Ryane’s students here: