Shakespeare Education Year in Review
As we wrap up 2015, let’s take a look back a few of the news trends that caught our attention in 2015 …
One of the more polarizing news stories in Shakespeare education this year developed when Dana Dusbiber, a high school English teacher, claimed that Shakespeare should be left out of today’s school curricula. She asserted, much to the frustration of many educators, that the works of William Shakespeare represent the narrow Caucasian view from a by-gone era of centuries past. Dusbiber also emphasized that literature from other cultures should be included and weighed as heavily to broaden students’ exposure to different perspectives in the classroom. Various rebuttals to Dusbiber’s ideas appeared on the scene, and they continued for weeks. Dusbiber’s piece arrived on the heels of a somewhat divisive report from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni which stated that most of the “elite” higher learning institutions were no longer requiring Shakespeare courses.
Long term intensive Shakespeare summer camps featured heavily this year, kicking off with the Shakespeare at Winedale summer season in Texas. Participating performers worked up to eighteen hours per day in preparation for performance. The immersive, months-long summer course, which began in 1970, takes place at the Winedale Historic Complex. Meanwhile, Shakespeare Orange County opened a new professional actor internship program with twenty students from the Orange County School of the Arts and A Noise Within, a classical repertory theatre company, held a five week conservatory-style intensive for students ranging in age from six to eighteen. Participants in the “Summer With Shakespeare program studied acting, choreography, combat, design, diction, improvisation, speech, and text analysis with theatre professionals. In addition, the Chicago-based Viola Project summer camp collaborated with the Oak Park Festival Theatre to create a satellite camp location. The Project sought to empower young girls and provide them with tools for self-expression through an exploration of Shakespeare. The project website and participating teachers emphasized the need to cultivate communication as young girls approach their teen years and become quieter about their opinions.
Training, Training, Training
The year 2015 demonstrated a marked interest in developing Shakespeare performance training centers. The Imaginary Forces Ensemble of Shakespeare Academy @ Stratford presented adaptations of Twelfth Night and Henry V with an international cast of fourteen (including youths from Asia, Europe, and the United States). SA@S performs at the Shakespeare theater grounds in Stratford, Connecticut. The actor training program in Stratford, Connecticut, opened last summer as a project of The Mighty Quinn Foundation which seeks to enhance educational, theatrical, and artistic experiences for the young. Participants spent the last six weeks of the summer in an immersive training program full of rehearsals and master classes with visiting practitioners and academics. Elsewhere in Connecticut, Milford’s Elm Shakespeare Company launched new performance classes for high school students and adults. Elm Shakespeare staff and a professor from Southern Connecticut State University lead the sessions on Saturdays. November’s session on Performing Shakespeare offered work for “any level of Shakespeare practitioner, and is tailored to individual need.”
The new International Shakespeare Center teamed with the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art to offer forthcoming workshops and performances that the associations hope will establish Santa Fe as a destination for Shakespeare similar to the festivals in Ashland, Oregon or Stratford, Ontario. Toward the end of the year, parliament debated a bid to create a replica of an indoor playhouse in Prescot. The Shakespeare North Trust hopes that the “North West” site will create a convenient triangle of Shakespeare destinations with Stratford and London. North West’s proposed International University College at the site would focus on “Shakespearean performance practice.”
The aim here is to commemorate the significance of Prescot’s history, by creating a Playhouse to a 17th century design. It would be a leading public theatre, with a a programme of education and local community engagement and an MA in Shakespearean performance and practice. – George Howarth, MP (Liverpool Echo)
Finally, Shakespeare’s Globe collaborated with Clifton College in Bristol to create a training program for teachers across the west of England and south Wales. Five day-long courses began this fall and will continue into 2016. The topics examine fathers and daughters, leadership, tragedies, and villains in Shakespeare’s works. The collaboration, led by the Globe’s education team, will be aimed at English Literature instructors.
Thank you for your readership, Shakespeare Standard fans! As always, we welcome your conversations and feedback. We look forward to continuing into 2016 and exploring the many events and programs coming up for the four-hundredth anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.