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Archive for May, 2010

There’s a technology wave sweeping the way elementary students learn and present Shakespeare. Wrapping up the children’s festival here at the Folger reaffirms our belief that performing Shakespeare live  is a very visceral and accessible approach to experiencing his plays. But what about introducing Shakespeare through film technology? Not just by vieiwing it but becoming a part of the process. Across the pond in England,  innovative educators have given their students cameras right along with Shakespeare words. Check out this article and video  about the work of Crosshall Junior School students in St. Neots, Cambridgeshire. And here in the Washington, DC region students from the Katherine Thomas School gave a special storybook film presentation of Twelfth Night during our children’s festival. Educator, Mark Ricche used green screen technology to help students with special needs who were not able to perform live, connect to Shakespeare’s work through this medium. The student’s pride in being able to present in this way was infectious.

What do you think? Are these educators on to something? Could this approach take off as a new way of reaching increasingly more tech savvy kids and teaching them Shakespeare? Does taking on a project like this exhibit a deeper understanding of the text or just as importantly give an alternative outlet for sharing the text?

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Another season of student festivals is behind us, and with it, another hearty showing of all the Shakespeare favorites: Romeo and Juliet and Midsummer Night’s Dream always have a loyal following (you just can’t beat a good Pyramus and Thisbe), Macbeth and Hamlet continue to be crowd pleasers, and Twelfth Night and Winter’s Tale are hot new additions to the mix.  One quick read and it is easy to see why these great works have become timeless favorites and why teachers and students revisit them again and again.  But over the course of his lifetime, Shakespeare wrote about 37 plays (give or take some of the disputed co-authorships) as well as a plethora of poetry.  What about the other 31 plays?

Bob Young, Folger’s Director of Education, has argued for years on the countless benefits of reading Titus Andronicus with students (what kid doesn’t love a good tale of blood and gore?), and this year, we were pleasantly surprised to watch a student-directed cutting of the rarely seen Timon of Athens.  Perhaps it’s time to visit some of Shakespeare’s lesser-produced works and see where students take them.  Or maybe you already have…

Which of Shakespeare’s plays have you worked on with your students?  Are there any plays you see as being too difficult or risky to venture, and why?  If you have studied or produced a lesser-known Shakespeare work with students, what was the experience like for you?

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Caitlin responded to my recent blog entry on summer reading and movie going by sending me this link:  http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.reelzchannel.com%2Farticle%2F1028%2Ftop-10-shook-up-shakespeare-movies&h=1f844. The site highlights ten movies based on Shakespeare’s plays, including Othello, King Lear, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. With tonight’s opening of Letters to Juliet, the list grows.  Are there any missing?  What’s your favorite?

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Recent blogs have focused on books or movies based on Shakespeare’s plays.  A book by Suzanne Harper, The Juliet Club, was just released in paperback, in time for summer reading.  A new film Letters to Juliet,  opens in movie theaters this Friday.  The book has gotten some good reviews.  The movie trailer looks promising.  Another book, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, by David Wrobewski will remind readers of Hamlet.  What books have you read, or movies have you seen, based on a Shakespeare play?  With summer approaching, do you have any recommendations?

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In an earlier post on Jim Shapiro’s new book, Contested Will,  I noted that it had gotten very good press.  It’s a great read, accessible and engaging.  Shapiro examines the underlying issues surrounding the authorship question.  As Shapiro notes, for two hundred years after his death, no one questioned Shakespeare’s authorship of the plays.  Now there are dozens of candidates, from Francis Bacon tot he Earl of Oxford.  One reponse to the post took the position that Shapiro failed “… to address any of the important questions that have been raised over the past century” and that Shapiro “…”seems to miss the point of authorship studies altogether.”  It would be great to hear from more readers on this question: “Who wrote Shakespeare?”  Are your students asking this question? Are you?  What’s your take on this controversy?

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