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Posts Tagged ‘Shakespeare’
During our first office hours on Twitter last week, we received this question:
We needed to know more, of course . . . so the middle school teacher who had asked it clarified in a second tweet that it’s her students who feel that the language is irrelevant. “… many students may not see the connection to their lives today & I wondered how that is being addressed.”
The language buy-in is way easier than you anticipate if you remember a few things:
- Not all language written by Shakespeare is complicated. He used more monosyllabic words than any other writer in English. And he wrote tons and tons of language that is, in fact, very easy to understand. Lines like these:
My love! My life! My soul!
Then came each actor on his ass.
Thou shalt be my queen.
These clothes are good enough to drink in.
Thou art the best of the cut-throats.
Get thee gone and follow me no more.
Come, come, away!
Get thee gone and follow me no more.
Wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied?
And there are loads, loads more.
- Start with this very accessible language. For a moment, don’t worry about the play you’re studying and don’t even think about meaning, because your students can figure the meaning all by themselves. And they will be surprised and delighted that they can speak Shakespeare and understand it all on their own. Begin with giving students a chance to put together their own Shakespearean insults (http://www.folger.edu/documents/KidInsults.pdf) and shout them at one another. For slower readers, pair students into teams and they can verbally hurl insults at other teams. It’s fun to say that stuff, it’s middle school, and it’s starting to seem not so archaic.
- Use lines like the ones above, written one per index card, and have students pair up and work on two-line plays. They each figure out a physical action to go with their line, and say their lines to one another. A two-line play!
- Once you have all dispensed with the belief that the language is impenetrable and complicated, you can have some fun talking plots:
–Boy and girl madly in love even though their families despise each other, run off and get married, try to figure out a plan so that they can be together in spite of all the death and violence that surrounds them
–Brave warrior wants to be king. His wife really wants him to be king. Why? Because a bunch of witches have told him that this is his future. To make this happen, warrior and wife work together to plot and murder, but they end up being the victims . . . both dead.
–A prince has no interest in becoming king. He’d rather keep on doing what he loves best–hanging out in bars, drinking and planning robberies with his criminal friends. His father the king is not happy with his son. How does this all work out? Or does it?
Let the language roll in your classroom and have fun!
After our master class in December on teaching Romeo and Juliet, we got so many great questions on the play and on how to make Shakespeare a success in the classroom.
We wanted the conversation to continue, and so we thought to ourselves, why not create a dedicated time each month for teachers to share their questions on a particular topic related to teaching Shakespeare?
One of the teachers we surveyed after the master class suggested an “office hours” of sorts.
And thus, we present Folger Office Hours. This Thursday (tomorrow!) we invite you to join us on Twitter for an informal Q&A from 2-3pm EST.
Here’s how it works:
1. You tweet your questions on the Folger Office Hours theme, which for this inaugural session is Romeo and Juliet.
2. We here at Folger Education (@FolgerED) will tweet back, answering questions as best we can in the moment. (Other teachers, feel free to chime in with your own thoughts and ideas!)
3. If any questions require more reflection or an extended response, we’ll save the answers for a blog post that we’ll publish the following Tuesday, right here on Making A Scene.
One last thing:
Be sure to use #folgerofficehours in your tweets to keep the conversation together.
We’re looking forward to chatting with you on Twitter tomorrow!
That’s what we try to make happen each year at our Secondary School Shakespeare Festival.
In March, we’re bringing together 48 schools, with students in grades 7-12, from D.C., Virginia, and Maryland. Our goal? To create a gathering place where everyone is welcome, and where Shakespeare is the common ground.
Students come to the Folger for a full day and perform prepared pieces from Shakespeare, with students from other schools as their audience. Performances usually run for 25 minutes, and while we welcome abridged versions of the plays or theme-based montages, Shakespeare’s original language is king.
We’re particularly excited for this year because it’s the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birthday! Tell us, are you doing anything special at your school to celebrate? Are you teaming up with any schools in your area? Share with us in the comments or send Peggy an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With 2013 behind us, we review some of our most popular posts from the year:
Author Ken Ludwig introduces his children to Shakespeare using particular passages, which he puts in context for them and then has them memorize. His new book shares these techniques and strategies with parents and educators.
A “centos” is a poem that has been created using lines from the works of other writers and is a form that has been around for almost two thousand years. Using Shakespeare quotes in these poems can be a fun activity for students.
Why is it that Shakespeare’s messy, uncomfortable plays stick with us so?
“The beauty of learning Shakespeare through performance is that it provides students a deeply rigorous interaction with a complex text at the same time that it stimulates their creativity and their ability to problem-solve collaboratively. Oh, and yes — it’s a ton of fun.”
We also revisit some popular posts that, though written prior to 2013, still got plenty of views this year:
- Shakespeare…in other words
- Teaching Shakespeare and ELL/ESL
- Orson Welles and Macbeth
- Shakespeare and the Common Core Standards
What were some of your favorite Making A Scene blog posts from 2013? What blog topics should we explore in 2014?
As you’re probably well aware, there are bazillions of versions of Romeo and Juliet on film. From the silent era through the present day, the pair has inspired countless adaptations from the faithful to the fun-house. Below I’m listing a few of my favorites, but please share your favorites in the comments!
When I was growing up, one of my favorite tapes to rent from Video Scene was the BBC Animated Romeo and Juliet featuring several famous voices and gorgeous animation by Christmasfilms. Using an abridgment of Shakespeare’s text, adapter Leon Garfield unfolded the tragic tale in under 30 minutes. It’s available on DVD, now, but preview it on YouTube!
The BBC Television Shakespeare series from the 1970′s might not be the most engaging to watch in its entirety, but if you’ve ever wanted to see a young Alan Rickman in tights as Tybalt, well, this version is a treat! No matter which scene you want to focus on, this full-text version is sure to have it, too. Keeping with the traditionally set, Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 film is still held in high regard. It’s authenticity of setting and the leads’ ages, as well as the wonderful performances by the entire cast make it infinitely watchable, even today. (Though, of course, with at least one scene post-wedding edited out for classrooms!)
Some modern-setting versions have kept the original text, as well, most famously in Baz Luhrman’s 1996 version set in Verona Beach. Even while it pokes fun (the guns are named “Dagger” and “Longsword,” for example), the story, edited from Shakespeare’s text, moves with an intense urgency. Additionally, the independently conceived and filmed Private Romeo uses Shakespeare’s text with a group of army-school cadets left alone at their campus. While it falters in places, it’s beautiful to see these young men using Shakespeare’s words to express themselves.
Finally, there are some wonderful new stories inspired by Shakespeare’s inspiration to re-tell the timeless cautionary tale of two warring groups whose youthful innocents fall in love with each other. West Side Story is the most familiar along these lines, and is a theatrical hallmark in its own right. Comparing this musical to Shakespeare’s play when I was a kid is what led me to be so interested in adaptation as an art form. Potentially less-inspiring, however, it’s worth noting that both The Lion King II and Gnomeo and Juliet are also inspired by these themes, though with happier endings for their young audience.
There’s not much room to mention Shakespeare in Love, but I’m going to have to. It’s a funny and touching imagining of how young Will Shakespeare was inspired to write this famous play from his own romantic experience . It’s totally laughably historically inaccurate, of course, but it does not claim to be so and is, instead, a whimsical love-letter to the Bard.
This could go on and on, of course. There are ballets, operas, TV mini-series, anime series, and so many other milieus into which this play has been re-imagined. Sometimes these adaptations illuminate different facets of Shakespeare’s play for consideration the next time we study it. Do these examples fit the bill? Not always, but at least we can enjoy the ride. What is your favorite example of Romeo and Juliet on the big screen?
Posted in Discussion Questions, Shakespeare, Tales from the Classroom, Teaching, videos, tagged language, Measure for Measure, Much Ado about Nothing, play, research, Shakespeare, Teaching, words, writing on 08/08/2013 | 5 Comments »
I was speaking with Folger Theatre’s resident Dramaturg, Michele Osherow, this morning as she prepared for an on-camera interview. While catching up, I mentioned that my husband would be working on a performance of Measure for Measure during his first year of graduate school - one of my least favorite plays. Michele replied that Measure for Measure is one of her favorites because it is so messy and unsettling, the same reasons I don’t like it.
Michele went on to point out that while her college students express distaste for Measure for Measure or Troilus and Cressida during her class, those complicated and uncomfortable plays are the ones they return to explore in their final papers and presentations. They’re the plays that stick in their minds because there’s so much to explore even as it discomfits us.
My favorite plays tend to contain comic banter. I like how the words intersect and dance around each other, especially out loud, in plays like Much Ado, Twelfth Night, and Romeo and Juliet (before it becomes a tragedy). I also enjoy the bumbling comic characters in Midsummer, as you already know, because I feel so close to Shakespeare as a player in those scenes. I enjoy talking about the use of language and the playing with the several meanings of words in performance.
For Michele, those complicated plays are very close in nature to modern theatrical experiences. They make us question how we feel and what we think about the world we live in – just as Shakespeare’s audience must have felt and thought. Is marriage a reward or a punishment? Is your best friend a good or bad person – are you? Who do you relate to: the villain or the hero – or is there a character you can identify as either role?
This reminded me of several videos in our Teacher to Teacher series – especially ‘Beauty in Difficulty‘ from Kristyn Rosen on plays that will challenge her students. Additionally, there is a whole section of videos related to teachers responding to the question “What is your favorite Shakespeare play to teach?” They cite relatability, good discussions, fun, and playable moments as their best reasons for one play or another.
What is your favorite play to read, see, teach, or talk about?
I first came to the Folger as a high school freshman participating in the Secondary School Shakespeare Festival. I was playing Dogberry, the lovable constable with a penchant for malapropism, in my high school Shakespeare Club’s abbreviated staging of Much Ado About Nothing. My first Festival was incredible – the extreme energy and love for Shakespeare I found there were only matched by the equally thrilling second and third Festivals I attended. I was hooked.
Having loved the Festivals, I wanted to see if I could get more out of the wonderful resource that is Folger Education. During the fall semester of my senior year of high school, I was accepted to the Folger’s High School Fellowship Program. Twice a week for three months, fifteen fellow students of Shakespeare from around the DC metropolitan area and I got to take advantage of all the Folger had to offer – seeing the Folger’s production of Othello (and chatting with its director, Robert Richmond), discussing Much Ado About Nothing with Folger Director Dr. Michael Witmore, and touring the Folger’s Reading Room were just some of the program’s highlights.
After going to the Festivals and participating in the Fellowship, I knew that I wanted to learn more from the Folger and became a summer intern for the Education Division. This is my second summer working with Education, where every day is unique. Generally, I’ve helped to plan curriculum for Shakespeare for a New Generation and develop the script for the acting ensemble Bill’s Buddies, which has taught me fun various ways to bring Shakespeare into the classroom. Another major benefit to interning at the Folger is the constant opportunity to learn. Between last summer’s Teaching Shakespeare Institute and this summer’s Conference on Teaching Shakespeare in the Elementary Classroom, there seems to be an endless stream of guest lecturers and entertaining workshops to enjoy.
To any students in the DC metropolitan area, I definitely recommend checking out what the Folger has to offer. Even if you’re not sure how you feel about Shakespeare now, try coming to a Secondary School Festival to see if your mind might change; if you know you’re a die-hard fan, apply to the High School Fellowship Program or the poetry seminar Shakespeare’s Sisters. As for me, I’m not sure what I’ll end up doing as a career – I’m toying with majoring in English, Education, or some combination thereof – but I know that I want to stay connected to the Folger, and I’m excited for whatever the rest of my summer with Education may have in store!
Posted in Activity Idea, Folger Education, Humanities Education, Performance, Tales from the Classroom, Teaching, Technology in the Classroom, tagged disabilities, Folger Education, performance, Shakespeare, special needs, students, teaching Shakespeare, technology on 07/11/2013 | 1 Comment »
~by Christopher Shamburg, New Jersey City University
Shakespeare can be a powerful tool for the cognitive, emotional, social, and linguistic development of all kids.
I saw this phenomenon when working with the students of A. Harry Moore School in Jersey City, a comprehensive school for students ages 3-21 with severe medical, physical, and cognitive disabilities. This year a group of 14 students did a variety of production-based activities with Shakespeare, culminating in a performance of The Winter’s Tale in June.
A production-based approach is where kids come to understand Shakespeare through performance and technology—using Shakespeare’s Language. It’s based in the Folger Teaching Method, and it’s great for all kids for several reasons.
1) It is a deeply immersive experience. In this case, students were dancing, sheering sheep, getting pursued by bears, consulting oracles, and coming tolife from marble statues. They were engaged like they would be in a fun game or an exciting sport.
2) These are fault tolerant activities. You do not have to do it perfect or right to make it work well.
3) There is a wide zone of engagement. It’s been said that engagement occurs when there’s a balance between skills and challenge. If a person is over-skilled, then boredom sets in. If a person is over-challenged, then frustration sets in. A teacher can easily balance skills and challenges with a production-based approach.
4) It’s a great tool for building students’ executive function. Executive function is a relatively new and helpful way of looking at brain activity. It’s a combination of planning, working memory, multiple perspectives, and impulse control. The methods of a production-based approach develop executive function.
Here are a few of the activities that worked for us.
One of the activities we used was “Shadows,” a method for students to get familiar with the physical space of the theater, experiment with their range of motion, and understand the contrasting emotions of the main character of The Winter’s Tale, and the catalyst for the action of the play, Leontes. In “Shadows,” one student acts as “Good” Leontes and another student follows as his “Shadow,” enacting contrasting lines from “Good” Leontes. Leontes wore a white mask or hat, and Leontes’ shadow followed wearing a black mask or hat.
|Stay your thanks a whileWell said, Hermione||Too hot, too hotI am angling now|
To better understand the plot and the language in the play, the students frequently performed “Winta: The Seven-Minute Winter’s Tale”. Every student enacted at least one line as a teacher read the narration and cued the students. The lines were designed for both readers and nonreaders, who would say their lines with a prompter.
NARRATOR: Leontes is sorry (12). But it’s too late. His wife is dead and his baby is gone. Antigonus has taken Perdita to Bohemia and leaves her in an abandoned place (13).
12) I have deserved all tongues to talk their bitterest.
13) There weep and leave it crying; and, for the babe is counted lost forever, Perdita.
A frequent reference during many of these activities, rehearsals, and performance was the emotion chart. It offered visual cues for nonreaders and some subtle emotional distinctions for the more dramatic players. It was based on the work of Christine Porter in Mary Ellen Dakin’s Reading Shakespeare with Young Adults.
Creating sound effects for the play–using voices, Foley techniques, and audio editing tools–was fun, engaged us in the text, and was a real crowd pleaser during our performance. We used the Audacity audio editing program to create numerous sound effects (e.g. party, bear, sheep, crying baby, stone breaking apart).
Adaptive Use Musical Instruments
One piece of software that was particularly useful was Adaptive Use Musical Instruments (AUMI). It allowed students with limited mobility to create music for the show. A user can create music or activated sounds with a variety of gross motor movements.
Embedded Word Files
To use the sound effects and music during the show we embedded they audio in a Word document. These sounds added production value and also worked as a memory device for the actors. Embedding mp3 files in a Word document is a standard, though underused, feature in Word that proved valuable during activities, rehearsals, and performance. We opened the file with the script and played the sounds along with the production.
Good Script and Prompting
Our director Terry MacSweeney from Actor’s Shakespeare Company did an excellent job of abridging Shakespeare’s language to a 30-minute show. He devised a system of cue cards, scripts and prompters that aided our actors just enough.
This was the Actor’s Shakespeare Company’s fifth production at A. Harry Moore. This year the work was a part of the NJCU Educational Technology Department’s Partnership and Projects Program.
The production was organized by Marissa Aiello, a speech language pathologist at the school, with assistance by Matt Masiello, a speech language pathology intern.
Christopher Shamburg is a Professor of Educational Technology at New Jersey City University. He is a workshop leader and consultant for the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Education Division.
Hello once again from your friend Louis Butelli, most recently Feste in Folger Theatre’s Twelfth Night. We closed our show on June 9 after a great run: thanks to everybody who came out to see us.
I’m back at the Folger to participate in an exciting new project – immersive audio recordings of the full Folger Editions of Shakespeare’s plays.
Published by Simon & Schuster, and edited by Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine, the Folger Editions of Shakespeare are widely considered to be among the very best anywhere. In working as an actor on Shakespeare plays all over the country, I’ve found that one can always rely on there being a Folger edition in the rehearsal room. Featuring excellent notes, essays, and illustrations, they are an invaluable resource for anyone working with Shakespeare, professionals and students alike.
Now, we’re going to go to work on creating dynamic, exciting audio recordings of the full, unabridged text of the Folger Editions of selected plays. Directed by Robert Richmond, some of Folger’s favorite actors will come together to rehearse and record: Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, and Macbeth. Once the actors’ voices have been recorded, Robert and the Folger team will edit for flow, add sound effects and music, and deliver a bold, sweeping version that brings the text to vibrant life.
We’re also thrilled to announce that a smartphone app, with access to the recordings themselves and some other cool bells and whistles, will be launching very soon. It’s an exciting way to interact with Shakespeare’s plays in a variety of new ways, right on your phone, and will be a great new resource for actors, directors, teachers, and students alike. Check back here and in your e-Newsletter for updates on our progress.
We’ve actually completed work on Othello, and the full recording is already available for purchase by clicking here. Back in November of 2011, the cast of Folger Theatre’s stage production of Othello went to Airshow Mastering to record the play. Click here to read my post about that experience.
Meanwhile, those who have read my posts in the past know that, when it comes to Shakespeare, I have a kind of soft spot for the clowns and fools. One of the roles I’ll be recording is Peter in Romeo & Juliet. I’ll close out this first entry about the recordings with some thoughts on him.
Appearing in only three scenes, in one of which he doesn’t speak, Peter is a personal servant to the Nurse, and is frequently cut from stage productions. Indeed, given the fact that he doesn’t have impact upon the plot, and given how little Shakespeare gives him to say in his script, one understands why Peter often faces the chopping block. However….
Peter is known to have been played originally by an actor named Will Kemp. The house clown for The Lord Chamberlain’s Men (Shakespeare’s production company), and most likely the original Dogberry, Falstaff, and others, Kemp was a popular comedian in his own right, and was probably an audience draw. Moreover, he was also known to have performed his famous “jigs” (highly improvisational song and dance routines) in the middle of Shakespeare’s plays as comic interlude during breaks in the action. For reasons unknown, Kemp left the company in 1599.
What I find fascinating about Kemp is the way he influenced Shakespeare’s text – not only with his presence, in terms of Romeo & Juliet, but with his absence, Henry V and Hamlet, for instance.
To explain: Shakespeare writes an odd stage direction in the 1599 Quarto version of Romeo & Juliet towards the end of Act IV, scene 5. This is a fairly climactic moment, following the Capulets’ discovery of their seemingly dead daughter Juliet on the morning of her wedding. The Nurse, Friar Lawrence, and County Paris, Juliet’s betrothed, are all in attendance. The scene is a huge lamentation, with the whole family shrieking and wailing, and off they go, with Lord Capulet giving an order to change the wedding celebration into a funeral.
Right on the heels of this, Shakespeare writes, “Enter Will Kemp.” While later editions correct the stage direction to “Enter Peter,” it is telling that in this very early edition, at this very moment, the author brings on his great clown – by name. What survives in the text is a fairly amusing scene between Peter and a group of musicians. By precedent, one might guess that, in performance, Kemp went off script and presented one of his “jigs,” as a “palate cleanser” before the rollercoaster ride of Act 5 began.
By 1600, Kemp had left the company. In Henry V, the much beloved character Falstaff never appears on stage and, in fact, Mistress Quickly has a touching speech reporting Falstaff’s death just offstage. In Hamlet, one might consider Hamlet’s speech offering “advice to the players:”
And let those that play your clowns speak no more than is set down for them, for there be of them that will themselves laugh, to set on some quantity of barren spectators to laugh too, though in the mean time some necessary question of the play be then to be considered. That’s villainous and shows a most pitiful ambition in the fool that uses it.
One spies a little ghost of Will Kemp in this “advice,” and one wonders if there isn’t a little clue as to why Kemp ultimately left the company.
In any event, for our recordings, I promise to stick directly to the script. I hope that you’ll follow along with our journey here in this space, that you’ll pick up a copy of our Othello, and that you’ll enjoy our new recordings as they become available.
OK. Thanks for reading! Until next time!
Catch up with Louis on the Folger Theatre blog!