It’s a lovely time for mid-fall dreaming, with All Hallow’s Eve just around the corner…. plenty of Macbeth witches stirring up imaginary cauldrons across the land…! In the meantime, here is your weekly update on what’s new in the world of Shakespeare and schools.
A scene from the Shakespeare Schools Festival, underway now in the UK.
Something amazing this way comes
The Shakespeare Schools Festival, the UK’s largest youth drama festival, has begun, with an astonishing 25,000 young people from 1,000 schools slated to perform Shakespeare scenes in their local professional theaters. Interestingly, the festival’s website press release couldn’t resist a dig at “Downton Abbey” creator Julian Fellowes, who – as Claire reported in last week’s Education column – famously declared recently that it took a Cambridge degree to really understand Shakespeare’s language. To quote:
“The festival, whose roots lie in the BBC’s Shakespeare Animated Tales, provides strong evidence against recent assertions from Julian Fellowes. Now in its 13th year, SSF aims to give young people the chance to experience the thrill of live theatre and raise their aspirations though achieving something amazing. Year in year out, some of the strongest performances come from children who do not speak English at home, who struggle with learning difficulties such as autism, and whose family has never previously visited a theatre.”
In her recent column on Shakespeare and education, writer Susan Elkin of The Stage praises the Shakespeare Schools Festival and other programs that bring Shakespeare’s original language to young people: “Shakespeare is the language. As the late, great Shakespeare educator Rex Gibson used to say: ‘You MUST give them the language. It’s what the plays are.’”
This Is South Wales Columnist Kev Johns also weighed in against Fellowes’ statements recently, recounting his recent performance in Merry Wives of Windsor and stating: “I still remember that during my time at Dynevor I studied Shakespeare’s As You Like It, Julius Caesar, Henry V, Othello and The Tempest because of the passion of my English teacher David Taylor. Shakespeare wrote for ordinary common people.”
But that’s all one… Our play is done…
Photos and video from the annual Shakespeare Competition held earlier this month at the Utah Shakespeare Festival are now available for viewing on the festival’s website. The website also features resources for teachers. More than 3,000 students from 118 different schools participated in the event.
“Must I not serve a long apprenticehood?”
Young players will be sharing the stage with professionals during the Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company’s new production of The Tempest in Grand Rapids, MI. Students from a variety of high schools in the area have been working with company members during its annual educational residency. In an article on the site MLive about the project, the company’s education director Kathleen Bode states, “This is how Shakespeare’s actors learned… Younger actors would follow and work along with older actors. They would be mentored. To be able to do it this way in our time is very unique and exciting. We love it.” Bode will be playing the role of Prospero.
A photo from the Humanities Texas website showing a scene from one of its workshops for high school English teachers.
Play out the play!
High school English teachers from across Texas recently participated in a special workshop on performance-based classroom approaches held in Houston by Humanities Texas. The Humanities Texas website promises to have a recap of the workshop up on the site soon, so check back for pictures and details.
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