O, what a fall is here, my country-people…! The number of amazing places and moments around the world where Shakespeare and schools are intersecting in some creative and inspired way is truly astounding, once you start to look around. So jump in — here are just a few examples of what popped up on the web in this field during the past week:
Royal School for the Deaf takes the stage
One of the fun elements of the famous Shakespeare Schools Festival in the UK is how it creates a bit of magic in so many different communities, large and small. You can sense this in the variety of regional newspapers that feature articles about a local performance by a student group. One of the most interesting ones appeared in the Derby Telegraph last week — a piece on an upcoming performance of a 30-minute version of Romeo and Juliet by students from the Royal School of the Deaf.
According to the article, the Festival features 35,000 young people taking to professional stages across the UK; 130 theaters host events, allowing more than a thousand primary, secondary and special schools to stage Shakespeare productions. Brilliant, as the Brits love to say.
Winners all: Utah Shakespeare Competition wraps up
Speaking of epic festivals, KCSG TV News in Southern Utah had a feature this week on the annual Shakespeare Competition hosted by the Utah Shakespeare Festival and Southern Utah University. More than 3,000 students descended on Cedar City, Utah, for the event, coming from 108 junior high and high schools in Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Wisconsin, and California. The news story has a local twist, as in the Derby article above — it focuses on local students from Tuacahn High who participated and won awards in several categories.
Shake-ing it up in Taos
The Taos News recently highlighted the work of teacher David Costanza, who has been sharing his passion for Shakespeare with his students at the Chrysalis Alternative School in Taos. Costanza funds his Shakespeare work each year with a fund-raising concert featuring live music, including his own band, Art of Flying. From the article:
“Costanza’s class is structured like a college seminar. This is in part possible because class size at Chrysalis Alternative School is small, with about eight students per class. Students discuss the origins of theater as ritual and catharsis, read from the text, do movement exercises, and practice dialogues. They watch two film versions of the play ‘Romeo and Juliet’: Franco Zefferelli’s 1968 classic starring Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey; and the more modernized 1996 version by Baz Luhrmann with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. The films are viewed a few scenes at a time and carefully analyzed.
“’We end up talking about violence, revenge, relationships, the nature of love-at-first-sight, honesty, anything we want,’ Costanza said.
“He points out that some of his students read below their grade level. ‘It doesn’t matter. Shakespeare is oral tradition … One of my deals is to get the classics out of the dustbin.'”
Teaching Shakespeare symposium gathers scholars, teachers
Dartmouth College recently hosted a symposium titled “Teaching Shakespeare,” which featured lectures and panel discussions with a variety of Shakespeare scholars and teachers, including keynote speaker Marjorie Garber, Stephen Orgel, and Ralph Alan Cohen. You can read a recap of some of the weekend’s sessions in this article in the Dartmouth paper online. From the article:
“Organized by English professor Jonathan Crewe, the symposium aimed to prompt educators and students to reevaluate how they teach or have been taught Shakespeare, Crewe said. Though the texts have remained the same over the centuries, instruction can better take into account learners’ contemporary biases and assumptions when approaching the works, he said.
“’In reality, nothing remains unchanged,’ Crewe said. ‘There are various circumstances, such as the arrival of digital methods of teaching, the loss of energy in the humanities and the academic shift toward the modern and contemporary that made me think it desirable to rethink the practice of teaching Shakespeare and the assumptions we have about it.'”