By Deborah Gascon
Have you ever seen any silent films of Shakespeare’s plays?
During the 2014 Teaching Shakespeare Institute, I sat for hours in the belly of the Folger Shakespeare Library watching black-and-white silent films of Othello and Romeo and Juliet—and it was the best day ever.
I was fascinated—how does a play with such essential language become silent? I realized while sitting in that basement that this would be an effective and quick tool to teach emotion, facial expressions, and pantomiming in acting (which all lead to understanding tone!).
When you watch a silent film, the most important words and emotions pop up on the screen, which makes it an effective way to help students engage in close reading and narrow the text for the main idea (which leads to understanding theme!).
Continue Reading »
Posted in Activity Idea, Performance, Shakespeare, Shakespeare on Film | Tagged Silent film | Leave a Comment »
By Deborah Gascon
It’s September and the weather is cooling down, but your students’ love for Shakespeare is warming up, right? Okay, maybe not love like, “will you go to the homecoming dance with me?” love, but maybe a lukewarm shyness sort of love? Your students aren’t ready to dance with Shakespeare, but definitely have been making eye contact and passing notes in class (or sending iMessages for you techie-teachers?).
My new batch of students haven’t experienced too much Shakespeare yet, but I have been dotting my daily lessons with a little bit of Shakespeare and performance-based instruction. By prom, they’ll all be asking their new love Super-Shakes to be their date.
Let me tell you about a quick and easy way to include the Folger’s approach to performance-based learning in our daily classroom lives. Continue Reading »
Posted in Activity Idea, Introducing Shakespeare, Shakespeare, Teaching | Tagged Circle Performances, Deborah Gascon | 2 Comments »
First Folio on display in the Exhibition Hall at the Folger Shakespeare Library.
Just how important is the First Folio? Well, the First Folio is the only source for eighteen of Shakespeare’s plays, including Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Twelfth Night, The Tempest, and As You Like It, all of which would otherwise have been lost.
Imagine taking your students to see one of these books! The Folger holds 82 copies of the First Folio, about a third of those still in existence, and by far the largest collection in the world. If you happen to be teaching in the DC area, it’s not too difficult to arrange a class trip to the Folger Shakespeare Library.
But for those teachers in other parts of America, we have something for you to look forward to. In 2016, we’ll be taking the First Folio on the road – to every state in the U.S.
Encourage your local institutions to apply to host a First Folio! This opportunity is open to public, academic, and special libraries; small museums; historical societies; and other cultural venues. Online applications must be submitted by October 24.
This traveling exhibition is offered by the American Library Association (ALA) Public Programs Office, in collaboration with the Folger Shakespeare Library and Cincinnati Museum Center (CMC). The tour is made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor. Learn more at https://apply.ala.org/shakespeare.
Posted in Folger Library, Shakespeare | Tagged First Folio, Folger Shakespeare Library | 4 Comments »
In our most recent blog post, we featured a unit plan from our Shakespeare in American Life website about patriarchy in King Lear (onstage right now at Folger Theatre) and William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying.
Today, we return to Shakespeare in American Life for a look at some fascinating comments about King Lear by Janet Reno, who served as the U.S. Attorney General from 1993 to 2001.
Reno recalls how she organized a group reading of King Lear at the Department of Justice, and she offers insight about Shakespeare’s understanding of the human condition.
We’ll give you a small taste with these powerful words:
I don’t know of anybody that has so combined the power to express his thoughts as magnificently as Shakespeare, about human nature and all the challenges and the pitfalls that we face. I think he is for us all, I think he is for us all throughout the ages. I think every person can find something within the lines that Shakespeare wrote that applies to him.
These audio clips can serve as a jumping off point for a class discussion about how Shakespeare’s words affect us today, even at the higher levels of government.
Listen: Reading Lear at the Justice Department
Listen: Shakespeare and the Human Condition
Posted in Discussion Questions, Shakespeare | Tagged Janet Reno, King Lear, Shakespeare in American Life | Leave a Comment »
Have you seen the Pop Sonnets tumblr?
It’s a simple yet ingenious formula: taking lyrics from popular songs and rewriting them in the form of a Shakespearean sonnet. The creativity on display here is delightful.
Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” receives this final couplet: “If truly you did wish to win my hand, you should have graced it with a wedding band.” Elsewhere, the theme song from “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” opens with “From western Philadelphia I hail, where in my youth I’d play upon the green”.
If you’re having difficulty getting students to take an interest in Shakespeare’s sonnets, maybe this could be a good way to capture their attention.
After all, as The Huffington Post excitedly puts it…
We’ve got lesson plans for teaching the sonnets and a great resource in Folger Digital Texts that you can use, but for more on that, you should read a blog post that we published in August.
And if you really want to have an awesomely nerdy moment, this blog post insightfully points out how the distinctive typography of Pop Sonnets helps achieve an “old-timey” feel.
Posted in Shakespeare, Sonnets | Tagged Pop Sonnets, Sonnets | 1 Comment »
Why do we make such a big deal about performance-based learning?
We at the Folger strongly believe that Shakespeare is for everyone and that speaking the Bard’s words for yourself is essential to gaining an understanding of and appreciation for Shakespeare’s plays.
Lenny Henry, the British comedian turned acclaimed actor, recently shared his turn-around experience with Shakespeare, in an interview with The Telegraph:
What came next was a Radio 4 documentary series called What’s So Great About…? The first was on Shakespeare. “I had a real allergy to Shakespeare. I wasn’t really taught it at school properly and thought it was very much the reserve of middle-class white people with tights and a cabbage down the front. So I was very frightened of it. Everybody we interviewed on that show, Peter Hall, Trevor Nunn, Adrian Lester, Judi Dench, said, ‘You should try it. Don’t slag it off if you don’t know what you’re talking about. Get some of the words in your mouth and then you’ll understand why we all love Shakespeare so much.’”
Henry delivered 20 lines of Othello’s last speech for the documentary and he was hooked. “It gave me the feeling that I could do it. It’s almost like I had my head put on straight for me. ‘This is what it’s about, it’s a serious thing, take it seriously, learn your lines, do some research.’ So the rehearsal process was brutal and I was reading that play for months and months before we did it.” And it was a success.
Henry went from thinking Shakespeare was not for him, to going on to perform in The Comedy of Errors at the Royal National Theatre in London.
What a testament to the power of speaking – not just reading – Shakespeare.
How are your students engaging with Shakespeare this school year? Tell us in the comments.
Posted in Performance, Shakespeare | Tagged Lenny Henry, Performance-based learning | Leave a Comment »