And the best news is…. that there is plenty of Shakespeare-in-education action going on out there, even as you read this. We’ve been busy rounding up what you might have missed in the past week. For a taste:
The rites of fall
It’s Fall Festival time in the Berkshires, thanks to Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Mass., and the Berkshire Eagle has an annual overview of the event and a series of photos. If you’re not familiar with this festival, it’s as old as the hills… the Berkshire hills, of course… and is a life-changing experiences for hundreds of high school students each year. Student teams from high schools within a day’s drive of Lenox work in collaboration with Shakespeare & Company teaching artists to create a Shakespearean performance, and then all of the students come together in Lenox to share their work at the festival.
A joyous sense of teamwork can be sensed in interviews with Festival participants and their teachers. Enthuses one student, Shanti Chiappetta, gearing up for her third year:
“We work together. We bow together. There’s no small part in Shakespeare,” said Chiappetta, who’ll be playing Maria in Taconic’s production of “Twelfth Night.”
In addition, local newspapers are profiling their community’s participating school groups. Here is a wonderful story from iBerkshires.com on how the participation of Taconic High School in Pittsfield, Mass., was rescued thanks to a “Save Our Shakespeare” fund-raising campaign.“Fly, Fleance!” — Banquo and the murderers, in a scene from this year’s Shakespeare project at The New School Montessori in Cincinnati.
A play is play
Just the photo alone (shown above) with this story from the Cincinatti.com site is enough to make it clear that many of our most avid players of Shakespeare around the world are young schoolchildren. The article tells the story of a former Shakespearean actor who decided to start an after-school Shakespeare Club at the Montessori school where he was teaching:
Jeff Groh, assistant director of The New School Montessori in North Avondale, is standing on the edges of the school’s Annex room watching the action.
Groh has been an actor and education director with the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, and now, for the last 14 years, a Montessori educator.
Shortly after he arrived at the school in 2009 as a teacher for ages 9 through 12, he persuaded school director Eric Dustman to let him start an after-school Shakespeare Club.
He had a notion that studying and performing Shakespeare – becoming “emotionally involved” in the material – would better help his students better engage with literature and teach important critical thinking skills.
Dustman agreed. “I think we have have a much larger responsibility as educators to do more for kids than to simply teach them what’s going to be on the test,” he says.
Shakespeare the game-changer
And now to return you to another amazing large-scale festival — the Shakespeare Schools Festival in the UK. We have featured this event before in these pages, but it’s hard to get enough of this wonderful program, which works with a staggering 35,000 students (the number is staggering, not the kids, unless they are playing Stephano…) each year. So we offer you another valuable peek into the SSF: The Stage.co.uk site’s drama columnist, Susan Elkin, pays tribute here to the life-changing effects of the program. Writes Elkin:
As in most youth work, it’s the process which counts as much as the end product. Yes the work was good – especially the thoughtful Hamlet from the Ellington and Hereson School – but the confidence-building journey and what the participants have learned on the way is more significant.
How can you resist a headline like this: “Tom Hiddleston is Making People Care About Shakespeare & English Teachers Everywhere Should Rejoice” — ?
This article from Bustle is a fun read, and includes a lovely note — Hiddleston credits a teacher with his love affair with Shakespeare’s language.
“I had one of those English teachers who just believed in learning things by rote when you’re young. Get it in the bones even if you don’t understand it and you’ll never forget it.” Hiddleston says he remembers memorizing Macbeth in that class, and how the teacher’s enthusiasm for the text helped Hiddleston learn to love it himself.