This week, Hamlet’s the thing wherein we find high school students investigating Shakespeare’s texts in unusual ways …
“Off to the pond for some me time!” – Ophelia (@crazy_4hamlet)
In Faisal Mohyuddin’s literature class at Highland Park High School, students brought the players in Hamlet to life on Twitter. Hamlet, Claudius, Gertrude, Polonius, Laertes, and Ophelia all received Twitter handles and began tweeting their reactions to key moments in the play.
The Chicago Tribune reports that the class project was an outgrowth of Mohyuddin’s participation in the Teachers for Global Classrooms program, a graduate course and symposium series designed to emphasize ways in which educators can integrate global education connections into their classrooms. As part of that global initiative, Mohyuddin incorporates group and technology-based projects to encourage collaborative work and connection.
In addition to the social media dialogue the class created, Mohyuddin also asked students to investigate how other cultures, at different periods of time, might interpret and stage Hamlet.
This, of course, is not the first time students have explored Shakespeare via Twitter … or even the first time examining Hamlet through social media. In 2012, English teacher Danika Barker of St. Thomas, Ontario, likewise requested that her class create Twitter handles for the play’s characters and tackle the story’s themes – sometimes from ‘beyond the grave.’ Barker noted that, while they progressed through the text together as a class, the use of tweets demanded that the students focus on the story and allow themselves “to become really invested in what was happening.”
Elsewhere, at Thornton Academy in Saco, Maine, teachers David Hanright and Chris Queally have worked to abridge Hamlet to a half hour performance with student actors. Though Hanright and Queally insist that the cutting maintains the dramatic arc of the story (including Hamlet’s soliloquies), they do acknowledge that their version presents a restructured and reordered version.
In January, cast members participated in workshops with Mark Bedell of the Maine Academy of Staged Combat to prepare for the show.
The Thornton Academy adaptation of Hamlet opened in the Maine Regional One Act Festival on March 6 and 7 where the student cast competed against nine other schools from the area. They also opened a free performance to the public on March 5.