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"It is, to act, to do, to perform…" | O, What Learning Is!

By November 5, 2013 No Comments




Welcome fans of Shakespeare-in-education – here’s some of what you might have missed in your web surfing during the past week!



A Michigan high school student works on her Macbeth witch performance as part of an All the World’s a Stage workshop in collaboration with actors from the Stratford Festival.

From Stratford with love

As the Macomb Daily reported last week, students in Macomb County in Michigan recently had the opportunity to learn about Shakespearean performance from some real experts – actors from the Stratford Festival in Stratford, Canada.  Thanks to the efforts of the All the World’s a Stage (ATWAS) arts organization in Michigan, a group of festival actors visited the area for a series of workshops.  Students from the ATWAS group will next travel to Stratford to perform scenes there.



A student player from the Shakespeare Schools Festival in the UK, which continues through Nov. 23.

Here, there, and everywhere

The Shakespeare Schools Festival is in full swing in England.  We have posted news items on this amazing event before, but the Telegraph recently featured an update on this year’s doings, which involve 25,000 young people from 1,000 primary, secondary and special schools performing their own unique interpretations of Shakespeare in 125 theatres throughout the UK.  The festival continues through Nov. 23.



"It is, to act, to do, to perform…" | O, What Learning Is! shakespeare news The Shakespeare Standard shakespeare plays list play shakespeare In this week's roundup of Shakespeare-in-education news, we touch base with the Shakespeare Schools Festival in the UK, hear Sir Nicholas Hytner's thoughts on young people appreciating Shakespeare, hear thoughts from Catholic educators on the Common Core standards issue, and read about actors from the Stratford Festival in Canada working in residency with young Shakespeareans.

Sir Nicholas Hytner, director of the National Theatre in the UK.

Keepin’ it simple, keepin’ it real…

The ongoing national discussion about how to teach Shakespeare in the UK – originally spurred by the Michael Gove education reforms – continues to flare up now and then in the British press.  One of the latest folks to weigh in is National Theatre director Nicholas Hytner, who admits that even he sometimes has a hard time with Shakespeare’s language, especially in the first 5-10 minutes of watching a performance.  Hytner told the Telegraph recently he is in favor of natural, spontaneous speech patterns in Shakespearean acting and more cross-gender casting.  But like many theater people, he insists that students will get more out of the works by seeing and hearing them onstage:

“It can be difficult if taught in a boring way, but it’s a matter of getting it to people…. Shakespeare is still reaching out to the young. The issues he explores are alive, the characters are amazing, the language – once you get past that first part – is exciting.  It bothers me that so many commentators say that the world is going to the dogs, and young people are feral, and everything’s going wrong and culture is degenerate, and nobody appreciates what’s good anymore.  I think if you make culture and Shakespeare available, the young love it.”

(Sir Ben Kingsley is with him on that one…)


A battle for hearts and minds…?

Did you realize there is something of a similar debate about education reform going on here, in relation to the Common Core States Standards Initiative?  (If you are like me and need a little guidance on catching up with this issue, the Wikipedia entry is here…). An article in the Catholic World Report reports: “A letter signed by 132 Catholic educators and scholars—including several regular CWR contributors—has been sent to each bishop in the United States outlining the problems the signatories see with the Common Core standards for K-12 education, especially when it comes to their implementation in Catholic schools.”

Included in the letter:

“…everyone is better off knowing Shakespeare and Euclidean geometry, and everyone is capable of it. Everyone bears the responsibility of growing in wisdom and grace and in deliberating with fellow-citizens about how we should all live together. A sound education helps each of us to do so.

“The sad facts about Common Core are most visible in its reduction in the study of classic, narrative fiction in favor of ‘informational texts.’ This is a dramatic change. It is contrary to tradition and academic studies on reading and human formation. Proponents of Common Core do not disguise their intention to transform ‘literacy’ into a ‘critical’ skill set, at the expense of sustained and heartfelt encounters with great works of literature.”



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