It’s not officially spring yet, but this morning the birds were singing, “Hey ding-a-ding ding”…
Sweet lovers love the spring, as do teachers and students, because it means Spring Break is near — giving us all time to catch up on our Shakespeare-in-Education news! So, as you lie between the acres of the rye with your mobile device/tablet, here’s what’s been happening in the world of Shakespeare and Learning…
Dancing, swordfights, insults banish “Shakes-fear”
The English department at Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky, hosted its 12th annual Shakespeare Festival last week, featuring a series of performances, lectures, and educational workshops. Highlights from the busy week included: “Shakespeare’s Dance Party,” a workshop on Shakespeare’s use of meter that utilized rock music; an on-campus Shakespeare insult battle with prizes for winners; a stage combat workshop featuring the school fencing club; and performances by the Tempt Me Further touring troupe of the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Virginia.
Festival chair and Assistant Professor of English William “Rusty” Jones said he hoped students would be able to connect to Shakespeare in a new way after the festival. “What we hope to accomplish is to diminish some of what some teachers call ‘Shakes-fear,’ which is basically a fear of Shakespeare, thinking it’s too boring or tedious,” Jones said. “We want people to see that Shakespeare is fun and ultimately we want them to have a good time.”
15th annual Shakespeare Scene Festival in Little Rock
More than 500 middle and high school students from around central Arkansas gathered March 11-12 for the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s 15th Annual Shakespeare Scene Festival at the Center for Performing Arts on campus.
“The Shakespeare Scene Festival provides an exciting opportunity for middle and high school students in central Arkansas to come together with the UALR community in celebration of the works of Shakespeare,” said Dr. Kris McAbee, Assistant Professor of English and the festival’s director, in an article on the university’s website. “The student performers are rewarded for their hard work of grappling with these difficult and profound texts by getting to perform them in the University Theatre in front of a large audience of their peers and community members.”
Awards won in the un-vexed “Bermoothes”
Five student participants from Bermuda Shakespeare Schools Festival have been awarded scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 to continue their study of the dramatic arts. The three-day event is held each fall at the Berkeley Institute private school in Pembroke with the goal of supporting the dramatic arts in the country. Somersfield English teacher Charlie Dudd said it was a special thrill for his students to perform The Tempest since some historians suggest the play was inspired in part by news of a 1609 shipwreck in the “still-vexed Bermoothes” of British colonists on their way to Virginia. As local news coverage noted, the play was performed in modern dress, which meant – of course – “Shakespeare in Bermuda shorts.”
What Shakespeare can do for young minds
Hilary Mantel, author of the popular and Man Booker Prize-winning Tudor historical novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, recently spoke at the Bath Literature Festival about the impact an early encounter with Shakespeare had on her writing. At age eight she discovered a speech from Julius Caesar in a book and, thinking this was the complete works of Shakespeare, memorized the entire speech. “Shakespeare is not just an author for me,” Mantel told the audience. “He is like a demi-god.”
Okay, I’ll read Beatrice this time: A Much Ado born in a living room
You never know what might grow out of that Shakespeare reading group you’ve hosted for years. Filmmaker Joss Whedon and wife Kai Cole have hosted one such group for years in their Santa Monica home, and ended up filming their new version of Much Ado About Nothing there. Many of the actors involved in the film had participated in the readings over the years, including Amy Acker, who plays Beatrice. Acker noted during a session after a screening at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas, that the spirit of the readings carried over into the filming of the play. “It had the same sort of playfulness,” she said, “and no one was really as scared of it (the play) as we probably should have been.” The film officially opens in theaters June 7.
Creeping like a snail unwillingly towards… Shakespeare exams
In a new documentary on Shakespeare in contemporary culture, award-winning actor Mark Rylance said he is “dead against” Shakespeare being used as part of an exam system for young people. In an article in the Telegraph quoting Rylance’s comments, the actor is reported as arguing that the “forced march to an exam test” could lead children to feel “culturally inferior” with “all their demons packed around it.” The program, Muse of Fire, shows two young actors traveling around the world with a video camera, asking all sorts of people what they think about Shakespeare. It is scheduled to be broadcast on the BBC in the fall.
Cast members from Antony and Cleopatra greet members of the Columbia High Shakespeare Club
The players are come hither: A special day at Columbia High
Members of the Columbia High Shakespeare Club in Maplewood, New Jersey, received a treat last week when cast members of the first-ever all African-American production of Antony and Cleopatra, who performed recently in New York City, visited the school to present scenes from the play and lead a workshop with students. The actors came at the invitation of club director and English teacher Steve MacPherson, who runs the school’s spring Shakespeare Festival.
And in other news…
A few more items of educational interest for this week:
- The Scarsdale Adult School in Scarsdale, New York, is offering a course beginning March 12 entitled, “Her Infinite Variety: Studying Shakespeare’s Leading Ladies,” to be taught by Estha Weiner, adjunct professor at City University of New York. Among the characters studied will be Kate, Beatrice, Juliet, Miranda, Lady Macbeth, and Cleopatra.
- The California Shakespeare Theater artistic director will welcome patrons to the company’s 18th annual gala, “One Great Party,” on Saturday, March 16, at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in San Francisco. The fundraising fete features a silent and live auction, a seated dinner, and entertainment. Tickets are $400 and the proceeds support the Cal Shakes education programs.
- Three Fulbright scholarship winners will attend the three-week Globe Education Theater Program of the American Institute for Foreign Study this summer. Students who win the award will have most program costs covered and will work with actors, directors and other theater artists at Shakespeare’s Globe in London June 17 – July 5.
We welcome your feedback and comments about any of the stories you’ve read here today!