Rain was pouring on Tyler St. in Longview but inside the World of Wonders interactive children’s museum, the atmosphere was bright and exciting on Tuesday morning as a group of children from across East Texas visited the “World of William.”
A cooperative event created by World of Wonders and the Texas Shakespeare Festival, the annual attraction was designed to let young people learn about the works of William Shakespeare in a fun, interactive environment.
“It’s our eighth year,” said Becky Supercinski, vice president of the WOW board of directors and co-chair of the World of William event. “It was a collaboration with the Texas Shakespeare Festival. I contacted Raymond Caldwell with the idea and he said it was a wonderful idea. ”
During the event, actors from the festival interacted with the children, ages 5 to 11, and led them in activities to prepare them for a performance on the WOW stage. The children started the day doing vocal and physical warm-ups with the actors before moving on to take part in creative activities. The actors and WOW volunteers helped the children build models, design costume pieces and create an improvisational play.
P.T. Mahoney, a TSF actor from Kansas City, Missouri, was excited to take part in the event, part of his first season with the festival.
“This is going to be a blast,” Mahoney said. “The kids will be doing creativity exercises and building characters. Kids are going to be kids. If they think of something fun to do, we’re going to go in that direction.”
Fun was definitely in focus as Matthew Simpson, associate artistic director and director of development for the festival, led the children in theatrical warm-up exercises after the actors introduced themselves. He then directed them in a creativity exercise in which the children improvised how they would deliver a present to a party while overcoming different obstacles.
The children also got the opportunity to take part in interactive activities to immerse them in the world of Shakespeare.
“We have four different stations,” Supercinski said. “First, they’ll be building London Bridge with marshmallows and toothpicks and then we’ll test the strength of the bridges. We want everything to be hands-on.”
Supercinski described how the children would then be given “quill pens” to practice calligraphy by writing their names and writing “Will’s Words,” famous quotes from the Bard’s plays. They would also get the chance to design their own prop jousting shield.
“They can do whatever they want to during free play in the Lego area. They can build a castle or perform on the stage,” Supercinski said.
The children were also given a pizza lunch and a voucher for admission the TSF Children’s Play, “The Lovely Stepsister,” written and directed by TSF company member Grace Abele. The play focuses on one of Cinderella’s stepsisters as she encounters characters from classic fairy tales on an adventure.
The event is part of the lead-up to the premiere of the festival’s summer season. The first play of the season, “Love’s Labour’s Lost” will premiere on June 28 in the Van Cliburn auditorium on the Kilgore College campus. For more information or to purchase tickets, call the TSF Box Office at 903-983-8601 between 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday or go online to TexasShakespeare.com.