At long last it is time for the Back-to-School edition of O, What Learning Is! We have been on hiatus during the dog days of August; but now summer break is over in these parts (though it’s still 100 degrees every afternoon), the college football team is playing this Saturday, and the yellow school buses are rolling again. So we should have plenty of Shakespeare-in-education news to report as the leaves begin to fall. This week, things are still a bit slow — but what is, come see….
“Cymbeline” with fourth/fifth graders? You bet!
First, a look back at the end of the last school year — the Hobart Shakespeareans website recently posted film clips from last spring’s production of Cymbeline, and the clips are wonderful. Filmed from the bleachers in tiny Room 56 at Hobart Elementary in Los Angeles by Alex Rotaru (director of the documentary Shakespeare High), the highlights show Rafe Esquith’s students — who all live in the Koreatown area of L.A. — singing, dancing, and playing multiple roles, all with complete confidence. The students work after school every day for the entire school year to create a performance that attracts visitors from all over the world. Next spring: Winter’s Tale.
Shakespeare & Co. wraps up its summer education programs
An article in the Berkshire Eagle gives a good overview of the summer education programs of the legendary Shakespeare & Company troupe in Lenox, Mass.. Opening line of the article:
“To properly learn Shakespeare, you must learn to be human. You have to learn to cry, learn to laugh, learn to scream and learn to speak without abandon, for yourself and in front of others.”
The article goes on to describe moments from a workshop for teachers that focused on expanding the vocabulary we use to discuss the plays and our lives; it also gives a glimpse of the unique philosophy of this amazing company, founded by Tina Packer in 1978.
Shakespeare and superheroes in the classroom
Middle school teacher Sarah Goodis-Orenstein recently wrote an article for Education Week detailing her playful approach to Shakespeare with her students. Goodis-Orenstein invited students to rewrite the plays in their own language and in settings of their own invention. The article includes links to YouTube clips of class performances. Goodis-Orenstein, who was inspired by the Shakespeare Set Free series published by the Folger Shakespeare Library’s education section, writes:
“I loved seeing groups of students hunched over their copies of Romeo and Juliet, debating wording interpretations and when and where to insert a pithy “YOLO.” The performances were, by and large, a riot!”
Goodis-Orenstein also blogs on her classroom and teaching.
A community workshop at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey
Continuing your Shakespeare education in New Jersey
If you live within commuting distance of Madison, New Jersey, you might check out the education offerings coming this fall from the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. An article on myCentralJersey.com gives an overview of what’s on tap, which include just about something for every age group. The article quotes Director of Education Brian Crowe as saying:
“At our core, we are a teaching theatre, and we strive to extend that mission to the community by offering instruction in all aspects of theatrical creation, both onstage and behind the scenes.”
What does it take to be a great Shakespeare teacher?
That’s the question thoughtfully explored by theater critic and blogger Noah Millman in an essay in the American Conservative recently. Responding to a friend’s frustrated query of, “Why can’t we teach Shakespeare better?”, Millman wrestles with the fact that some students are bored stiff by Shakespeare and others are led to inspiring and even life-changing encounters. He writes:
“More than anything, it seems to me, teaching Shakespeare requires love of Shakespeare, more than many authors, because Shakespeare’s greatness looms over him like an intimidating proctor, making us feel that if we don’t ‘get’ that greatness then we’ve somehow learned nothing, prompting us to cut him down to our own size. None of that is necessary. Shakespeare comes in all sizes, rewards just about every level of engagement….”
That’s enough to keep you updated until our next edition. In the meantime, thanks for reading, and please send us your Shakespeare-in-education news tips!