Welcome, readers! I’m back from an extended hiatus and ready to roll up the sleeves to dive into Shakespeare news this week. The school year is off to a start, controversies are buzzing in the educational air, and here we have your Shakespeare in education round up …
Scholar to Keynote at Grand Valley
Grand Valley State University in Michigan will host scholar Tony Simotes as the keynote speaker for the biannual Shakespeare Conference in conjunction with the Grand Valley Shakespeare Festival. Simotes will present his lecture, “Shakespeare’s Physical Text: Violence and Comedy for the Stage,” on Friday, September 26.
A founding member and the current artistic director for Shakespeare & Company, Simotes has worked as an actor, director, fight choreographer, and theater educator.
SCLA Hosts Benefit Reading of AYLI
The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles presents its twenty-fourth annual Simply Shakespeare benefit reading of As You Like It on September 22 at the Freud Playhouse, UCLA Campus. An evening of improvised Shakespeare and song will feature Steve Carell, Christopher Lloyd, Paul Simon, William Shatner, Martin Short, and Sam Waterston, among others. Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson will host. Though not expressly an educational fundraiser, proceeds from the event will support the SCLA and, in part, arts education in local schools.
Shake It Up Takes Shylock to GermanyShake It Up Shakespeare’s Merchant
The Shake It Up Shakespeare project in South Wales aims at making Shakespeare’s plays more accessible to schoolchildren in the area. This year, director Derek Cobley will present The Merchant of Venice set in 1930s Germany, just before the rise of the Nazis. Actor Christian Patterson, who plays Shylock, believes that the newly telling is especially helpful to young students and that Shakespeare is best served in live performance.
“It’s a lot easier to grasp that way, being in the presence of the actors and hearing all the brilliant language spoken aloud.
“Without that – alone with just a dusty textbook and the specifics of iambic pentameter to get your head around, it’s no wonder some kids just feel lost.”
ASC Invites Audiences to Lectures and Workshops
The August Free Press reports that the Education Department at the American Shakespeare Center in Virginia encourages audiences to arrive before a performance and “enrich their understanding of the plays and explore performance choices” through the Blackfriars Playhouse lecture series and workshops.
This Wednesday through October 15, Dr. Ralph Alan Cohen, Director of Mission and co-founder of the ASC, will deliver lectures before each play and select additional lecturers as guests throughout the year. On Thursdays, from October 16 to November 13, the Inside Plays workshop series will explore performance questions which arise in the production of the plays.
Other Bits of Interest
- The Folger Shakespeare Library suggests that if you haven’t yet seen the Pop Sonnets tumblr, in which popular tunes from today are rewritten into sonnet form, you should check it out as a resource for disinterested students. You should also check out Alissa Elliott’s post, The Beat and the Flow, which, among other things, mentions those catchy sonnet rewrites.
- As part of a lengthy interview about varying subjects, actor Ethan Hawke recently mused on his feelings about performing Shakespeare. He asserts that, when played “correctly,” high school students will love it. I wonder what Ethan Hawke deems the “correct” way to play Shakespeare. Another interview, perhaps.
- In Texas, a recent complaint over school reading has rekindled the local debate about appropriate literature for teens – and includes a bit of how it applies to Shakespeare. Carol Wickstrom, education professor at University of North Texas, notes that sexual imagery and innuendo are throughout the playwright’s works (often a part of school reading ) but “we don’t always understand the language used” in such cases. Long time readers of TSS will remember that I discussed this same subject of censorship and its impact on Shakespeare in schools. Any new or renewed thoughts to add?
Let us hear from you about any of these stories … Do you think Shakespeare should be taught in high schools despite its sexual content? Do you have a favorite pop song rewrite? Have you attended the Shake It Up Merchant or the Grand Valley Conference? Leave us a comment and start the conversation …