Dear Teen Me with Stephanie Strohm, author of The Taming of the Drew

Author of The Taming of the Drew, Stephanie Strohm writes a Dear Teen Me letter. Check it out below!


Dear Teen Me,

Congratulations! You did it! You have found your people. I know you are so happy to be playing Lady Larkin in Once Upon a Mattress, and so happy to be spending all of your time with the other self-proclaimed drama dorks. You finally feel like you have a place you belong, and I know how much this means to you, because even when you are twenty-nine, you will still remember the choreography to “I’m in Love with a Girl Named Fred.” (You really didn’t need to hold onto that, Teen Stephanie.)

Enjoy it. This is the second-to-last musical you’ll ever do, because you’re about to decide you’re too “serious” of an actress for anything involving a time step. So for now, sing your little soprano heart out, produce the jazziest jazz hands ever, and relish every whispered bit of gossip backstage about who likes who. And take more pictures with Caitlin, because in about a decade, you’ll be her bridesmaid, and she’ll be yours, and those pictures of the two of you in medieval garb are hilarious. You’ve got one on your fridge in Chicago right now.

Also? Stop blotting the grease off the free pizza you get during tech week. Or throwing the crust away even though it’s your favorite part. I know you’re scared that you can never be a real actress. That you’re not pretty enough, good enough, thin enough. But you know what? No one but you cares how thin you looked or didn’t look in your costume. And you looked adorable, dummy.

yankees Stephanie in Damn Yankees

I’m glad you found an escape from the high school agony you’re constantly writing about in your diary, which can be summed up neatly into two categories: “I’m too fat to be a real actress” and “I’ve never had a boyfriend.” Most boyfriends are overrated, Teen Stephanie! But I’m sorry you feel like your life is only happening on stage. So what if your first kiss was with a gay Phantom of the Opera? So what if you’ve never kissed anyone offstage? I promise, it’s fine! Next year you’ll do a play at an all-boys’ school, and seriously, Teen Stephanie, you should have hit that up earlier. So stop worrying about when that first kiss will finally happen. It’s coming. I wish you could just enjoy being onstage with your friends now, instead of worrying about whether or not these guys you’ve barely talked to think you’re cute, or whether or not you can make it as an actress.

Because guess what—you did it. You’re a theater major in college, and you move to New York because you get cast in an off-Broadway show. People actually pay you to act. In twenty-two different states! It’s not always glamorous, and you end up playing way more amphibians than you ever thought you would, but you did it. You are a professional actor. And no, you didn’t get super skinny. Turns out, you can be a working actor even if you don’t have super prominent clavicles.

Here’s the plot twist, though—that unexpected Act V Hamlet never saw coming—you kind of . . . decide you don’t want to act anymore. There’s a moment, when you’ll be sitting backstage at a Chekhov show, when you realize that you’re actually having more fun in the dressing room than you were on stage. That’s the moment when you realize you’ve fallen totally, completely, head over heels in love, and no, it’s not with the man playing your husband in the show. (You broke that pesky castmate-smooching habit a long time ago when you fell for a guy working in the development office at a theater you performed at in Florida. And love is even better than it seems in musicals, even if he hates dancing. You’re getting married in September, and yes, your wedding is in a barn, but there will be no horses in attendance. Sorry, Teen Stephanie.)

Surprise—you’ve fallen in love with writing. Yeah, remember that thing you wanted to do when you were in fourth grade? Just like Jo March? Guess what? You did that too! You wrote a book! You wrote multiple books! And you realize more and more that you love writing, that you love creating your own worlds, and even thought it makes you feel bad to admit it, you like having a job where no one cares what you look like. Where most people don’t even know what you look like. And you are going to feel so bad about leaving theater. You are going to feel like you’ve given up on your dream, like you’re failing all of your acting teachers, like you’re just the same as every other wannabe actor who couldn’t make it. But you know what? You haven’t failed. Dreams change. You haven’t seen Tangled, because it doesn’t exist yet, but it’s going to be your favorite Disney movie. And when Rapunzel goes out and gets a new dream, you’ll know just how she feels. Because you have a new dream, too.

Oh, and you still put way too much stock in Disney movies. But you actually get to work as a Disney princess, so I think that’s okay.

Keep dreaming big, Teen Me. All those dreams are going to come true. And eat the damn pizza crust.

Love,

Stephanie


The Taming of the Drew by Stephanie Kate Strohm

Taming of the Drew_REVISEDCass McKay has been called stubborn, temperamental, difficult, and that word that rhymes with “witch” more times than she cares to count. But that’s all about to pay off. She has finally landed the role she was born to play—Kate, in The Taming of the Shrew—in the summer apprentice program of a renowned Shakespeare theater company in the forests of Vermont.

But Cass can barely lace up her corset before her troubles begin. Her leading man, Drew, is a complete troll, and he’s going to ruin Cass’s summer. Even worse, Cass’s bunkmate Amy has somehow fallen head over heels for Drew. Cass can’t let Amy throw herself at a total jerk, so she comes up with a genius plan to give Drew the personality makeover he so desperately needs: they’ll tame Drew just as Petruchio tames Kate! But as Shakespeare’s classic plays out offstage, Cass finds it harder and harder to resist falling for Drew herself.

The best kind of entertainment, The Taming of the Drew is smart, funny, fresh, and original. You’re going to love this badass heroine and her friends. You might even end up liking Drew, too.

 

strohmphoto

Stephanie Kate Strohm is the author of The Taming of the Drew, Pilgrims Don’t Wear Pink, Confederates Don’t Wear Couture and the upcoming It’s Not Me, It’s You and Prince in Disguise. She graduated from Middlebury College with a dual degree in theater and history and has acted her way around the United States, performing in more than twenty-five states. She currently lives in Chicago with her fiance and a dog named Lorelei Lee.  Visit her online at www.stephaniekatestrohm.com, follow her on Twitter @stephkatestrohm, and like her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/stephaniekatestrohm.

 

 

 


This post was originally written for DearTeenMe.com. The site is currently on hold, so, with permission from DearTeenMe, we’re sharing our authors’ posts here instead!

 

 

 

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Happy Birthday, William Shakespeare!

While the exact birth date of English poet, actor, and playwright William Shakespeare is unknown, it is believed to be April 23rd (which is coincidentally also the date of his death). And 2016 marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death! The author of plays such as Romeo and JulietHamlet, and Macbeth, Shakespeare is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist.  He is often called England’s national poet and the “Bard of Avon.”

To celebrate this important anniversary, two of our wonderful authors, Stephanie Kate Strohm (The Taming of the Drew) and JoAnne Wetzel (Playing Juliet) are here to talk about their love of Shakespeare and why their books are perfect for young and teen readers that love him, his plays, and theater in general!


 

Stephanie Kate Strohm, author of YA novel The Taming of the Drew (on sale now!)

How did your love of Shakespeare start?
I was one of those kids who was firmly committed to spending her entire summer in the library. School was a pesky distraction from plowing my way through an enormous reading list; the minute the last bell of the year rang in June, I was firmly planted in the “Fables and Fairy Tales” aisle of the Fairfield Public Library. In between reading grisly accounts of Cinderella’s stepsisters slicing off bits of their feet, I stumbled across a volume entitled Tales from Shakespeare. I’d never heard of any of these stories, but they were just like fairy tales—or at least, the dark and disturbing German ones I’d been reading. There were fairies! Princesses! A true love’s kiss that didn’t totally work! (Sorry, Juliet) And plenty of stabbings! I was enthralled.

Soon after, my parents took me to see Twelfth Night at Shakespeare on the Sound, and to this day, I can vividly picture Malvolio’s yellow stockings, and remember how hard I laughed—even if I didn’t totally understand the language, it didn’t matter. The story transcended what I didn’t know. By the time I was eleven, I was playing Bianca in a production of The Taming of the Shrew that my family assures me was excruciating, and notable only for the obscene number of scene changes involving middle schoolers parading candlesticks on and off stage. They might have been in agony, but I was all bliss. I’d fallen head over heels in love with Shakespeare, and I’ve never looked back.

What’s your favorite Shakespeare play?
My favorite Shakespeare play is King Lear. (Remember how I said I love the grisly ones?) Edmund is my favorite villain, Cordelia is one of my favorite roles I’ve ever played, and I think the play has some of the most blisteringly beautiful lines in the English language. I like the comedies, too—I love Much Ado About Nothing—but I really like to leave a Shakespeare play sobbing and clutching my eye sockets in sympathy.

What’s your favorite Shakespeare movie adaptation?
When it comes to movies adaptations of Shakespeare plays, there is no contest, there is only 10 Things I Hate About You. Heath Ledger and Julia Styles have the kind of chemistry that crackles onscreen—just as the bard intended.

Why is your book great for young Shakespeare fans?
The Taming of the Drew is the book I would have wanted to read when I was in high school, back when my life’s ambition was to stab myself on stages around the country. The characters in The Taming of the Drew love Shakespeare the way that I did then, and still do. It may be the first YA novel that uses lines from Richard III as romantic banter—scratch that—it’s probably the first anything that uses lines from Richard III as romantic banter. I wanted to make Shakespeare’s plays feel the way they do to me—visceral, present, and alive. And if you don’t like Shakespeare . . . give him a try. He may surprise you. There’s a lot more to him than neck ruffs and the word “forsooth.”

Stephanie Kate Strohm is the author of Pilgrims Don’t Wear Pink and Confederates Don’t Wear Couture. She graduated with a dual degree in theater and history and has acted her way around the United States, performing in more than twenty-five states. She currently lives in Chicago with her fiancé and a dog named Lorelei Lee.

 


 

JoAnne Wetzel, author of middle-grade novel Playing Juliet (on sale now!)

How did your love of Shakespeare start?
I fell in love with Shakespeare at a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I was in the front row, watching the feuding fairies fight with flowers as their weapons. As leaves and blossoms flew everywhere, a trumpet flower landed in my lap. I inhaled its sweet scent and knew I was hooked. I had to see a production of every one of Shakespeare’s plays. How could I miss another experience that splendid?

There are 37 plays in The Complete Works of Shakespeare I’d used in college. Over the years, I checked off each play until King John was the only one left. It’s so rarely staged, I was lucky to find it opening in San Diego, only 450 miles away. It was the first time it had been produced in that city in 40 years. I flew there, checked King John off the list and congratulated myself. I’d seen all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays.

That week an email arrived from my daughter with HA! in the subject box. Shakespeare’s lost play Cardenio had been found and The Royal Shakespeare Company was putting it on as a rediscovered work. I flew to England to see it. Scholars have continued to add more plays to his canon. So far I’ve seen 39 plays by Shakespeare and will be seeing number 40 later this year, but this time I hope I’m not done. His plays are so good, wouldn’t it be wonderful if another one was discovered.

What’s your favorite Shakespeare play?
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (and The Tempest)

What’s your favorite Shakespeare movie adaptation?
The 1935 Warner Brothers film, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. A teen-age Mickey Rooney played Puck and his joyous screeching laugh was perfect for the mischievous fairy who created such chaos in the story.

Why is your book great for young Shakespeare fans?
Playing Juliet introduces the reader to the world of the theater. It starts out with the fact that William Shakespeare’s Scottish play is considered so unlucky, no actor will say its title out loud. While that play is never named in the book, one of the characters figures it out, and provides enough clues that the reader can too. Not only does each chapter start with an epigraph from Shakespeare that foreshadows the next plot twist, he also wrote part of the dialogue. When our heroine is grounded, she keeps quoting Juliet as she trudges back to her room after dinner every night, from “O, sweet my mother, cast me not away,” to “O, shut the door, and when thou hast done so, come weep with me; . . .” Sadly, even Shakespeare’s words don’t work on her parents.

And, as Jane Yolen said in her review of the book, “. . . there’s an extra bonus in the back for teachers introducing the Bard to middle schoolers.”

JoAnne Stewart Wetzel
is a self-proclaimed theater geek, and she recently completed a twenty-year quest to see at least one production of every play written by Shakespeare. She is also a published author of two previous books for children, including a nonfiction theater book, Onstage/Backstage (Carolrhoda). Her picture book, The Christmas Box (Knopf), was named a Noteworthy Book for Children by Bank Street College of Education. She lives in Palo Alto, California.

 


Shakespeare lovers, what’s your favorite play and movie adaptation? Let us know in the comments!

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Stephanie Kate Strohm on Writing and Acting

The Taming of the Drew author, Stephanie Kate Strohm, blogs about writing and acting. Check it out below!


When I was four years old, my parents took me to see Peter Pan on Broadway, and I knew from the moment that Wendy Darling thought her first lovely thought and flew up to the nursery ceiling, that I was going to be an actress when I grew up.  I had the sort-of-confused thought that actors could fly, but more importantly, I knew that theater was magic, and I wanted to be part of the magic.  Flying, turns out, was not all it was cracked up to be—my own turn about the stage in a flying harness, many years later, left me more nauseated than anything else—but I was absolutely right about theater being magic.  I spent the rest of my adolescence in various theater camps, classes, and after-school programs, confident that my destiny was on stage.

standingprincess

I never planned on becoming a writer.  I studied theater and history in college (acting as a career goal; nineteenth century American history for fun), and was cast in a touring production fairly soon after I graduated.  My theater experience doesn’t just influence my writing—it was the reason I became a writer.  While on tour, I started writing a blog to keep my friends and family back home informed on all of my adventures.  As the grind of tour began to wear on me, I came to look forward to my time alone in the hotel lobby with my blog and my laptop as the highlight of my day.  It was an escape from directors who said I wasn’t pretty if I didn’t smile and from the monotony of having to repeat someone else’s lines day after day.  This was right in the height of Twilight mania, and one day, in the middle of Indiana, I decided to try writing my own YA story.  Just for fun. And much to my surprise, I fell in love with writing.  I wrote backstage, in our tour van, in the bathroom of every Comfort Inn while my roommate slept.  I loved coming up with my own ideas and creating my own worlds instead of always living in someone else’s.   Writing felt like freedom, and I couldn’t get enough.

I don’t act professionally anymore, but my theatrical past has been an invaluable tool in my writing process.  I hear each line of dialogue like it’s part of a play, and it all has to pass the “would I say this on stage?” test.  If it sounds awkward, it’s out.  I listen for where the emphasis would be, where the laugh lines would be, where a scene might need a dramatic pause.  I might be a writer now, but I write like an actor.  And Stephanie Kate Strohm, YA author, is a role I love.

courtbench


 Taming of the Drew_REVISEDThe Taming of the Drew

Cass McKay has been called stubborn, temperamental, difficult, and that word that rhymes with “witch” more times than she cares to count. But that’s all about to pay off. She has finally landed the role she was born to play—Kate, in The Taming of the Shrew—in the summer apprentice program of a renowned Shakespeare theater company in the forests of Vermont.

But Cass can barely lace up her corset before her troubles begin. Her leading man, Drew, is a complete troll, and he’s going to ruin Cass’s summer. Even worse, Cass’s bunkmate Amy has somehow fallen head over heels for Drew. Cass can’t let Amy throw herself at a total jerk, so she comes up with a genius plan to give Drew the personality makeover he so desperately needs: they’ll tame Drew just as Petruchio tames Kate! But as Shakespeare’s classic plays out offstage, Cass finds it harder and harder to resist falling for Drew herself.

The best kind of entertainment, The Taming of the Drew is smart, funny, fresh, and original. You’re going to love this badass heroine and her friends. You might even end up liking Drew, too.

 

strohmphotoStephanie Kate Strohm is the author of The Taming of the Drew, Pilgrims Don’t Wear Pink, Confederates Don’t Wear Couture and the upcoming It’s Not Me, It’s You and Prince in Disguise. She graduated from Middlebury College with a dual degree in theater and history and has acted her way around the United States, performing in more than twenty-five states. She currently lives in Chicago with her fiance and a dog named Lorelei Lee.  Visit her online at www.stephaniekatestrohm.com, follow her on Twitter @stephkatestrohm, and like her on Facebook.

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