Friday, October 12, 2012

In Praise of 'Young Bess': One Girl's Journey to Understand Elizabeth I

Ashlie and Mia after Mia's debut of her Young Bess program. September 8th, 2012. Picture taken by/property of Ashlie R. Jensen.

In March of last year I presented two programs that I researched and wrote myself about Queen Elizabeth I of England. After each presentation, I left time for audience questions and one-on-one interaction. There was one little girl and her mother that seemed particularly interested in the subject matter. A few weeks later I received an email from this family that I had spoken with at length; the mother, Donna, wanted to inform me that my presentations had lit a spark of interest in her daughter, Mia. She shared with me that Mia was currently working on a school project about Queen Elizabeth I. They also wanted to know if I would be interested and available to look over Mia’s research and offer her presentation tips.

I was more than delighted to mentor Mia. Over the next couple of weeks, I answered historical questions, suggested books for her research, and gave feedback on presentation format and costuming through email. We then coordinated a meeting so that I could see Mia’s finished product. Donna and Mia came to the Higgins to meet with me, and by this time, Mia was already developing a second program! Mia had decided to expand upon her school presentation to develop a more in-depth format for her local library. Her program, Young Bess, was a first-person interpretation of the young Elizabeth Tudor. 

Mia alongside one of her Young Bess display tables. Picture taken by/property of Ashlie R. Jensen.

I continued to help Mia refine her presentation, which in addition to her monologue now includes posters, material objects, and a portfolio. I was honored to be in attendance when she performed Young Bess at her local library to a full house. Mia purposefully selected September 8th for her presentation; she had wanted to present on September 7th because that is, of course, Elizabeth Tudor's birthday, but she was in school on the actual date!

I have been astounded by all that Mia has been able to achieve in such a short amount of time, and I have been honored to be a part of her creative and learning process. Mia will reprise her Young Bess program for her school this Monday. I believe that Mia will one day inspire someone else to fall in love with history!

Mia with her celebratory flowers after her Young Bess performance. Picture taken by/property of Ashlie R. Jensen.