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Posts Tagged ‘Shakespeare’

 

As you probably know, April 23 is Shakespeare’s 450th birthday, and the Folger Education staff wants to get everyone involved in the celebration. So we are hosting a Balcony Scene Flash Mob Festival. It’s simple. It’s fun.  And it will get a lot of people speaking Shakespeare.

UNCWe hope to get groups from all across the country to take part.

So please join us!

All you have to do is use this Edited Balcony Scene, divide your group into Romeos and Juliets, and read the scene chorally.  As shown in the photo to the right (performed at the University of Northern Colorado in February), the definition of a balcony is very loose. It can be a stage in the school auditorium, the top row of the bleachers, the roof of a building, chairs in the cafeteria, or what you will. The photo below was taken at the Folger Library’s Flash Mob during the April 6 birthday bash and open house.

Folger flash

We will be posting all the submitted videos on our own YouTube page. While this is not strictly a competition, we will acknowledge and award entries in a variety of categories such as most creative or unusual setting, best costumes, most passionate or whatever else we think of at the time.

Just be creative and have fun!

Here are the rules:

  • You need to use the Official Edited Script of the Balcony Scene from Romeo and Juliet that we’ve posted here. It takes about 3 1/2 minutes to perform.
  • The scene needs to be performed chorally–all the Romeos must speak together and all the Juliets must reply together.
  • Have the Juliets elevated somewhere and the Romeos standing below them.
  • Record the scene on video and upload it to YouTube.
  • Send the YouTube link by April 30 to EducationGroup@folger.edu.
A scene from Romeo and Juliet. By John Massey Wright. Folger Shakespeare Library.

A scene from Romeo and Juliet. By John Massey Wright. Folger Shakespeare Library.

In an earlier post we wrote about the Balcony Scene Flash Mob in Boston that broke the record previously held by the University of Northern Colorado.

We’re hoping some group will break the record of 160 “actors” this month, so consider this a challenge.

But even if your “mob” consists of 20 fifth-grade students or a group of senior citizens at the local assisted living center or a class of theater kids at the local mall, we want to see it. And if you can get any local media to cover your mob event, let us know that too.

Any questions? If so, contact me at Mlomonico@Folger.edu

And be sure to check out our Romeo and Juliet board on Pinterest for a collection of beautiful images and famous quotations from the play.

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Guest post by Deborah Gascon - Dutch Fork High School, Irmo, SC

Performance in AP?  Didn’t think you had time with all the other pressures? Make time. Using Folger strategies in my AP classes has transformed student comprehension of difficult texts and improved their abilities to read closely–and has actually SAVED me time.

This week my AP Lit and Comp students completed poetry presentations.  There were several requirements but one of them was to make the presentation engaging–there is nothing worse than sitting through 57 poetry presentations, is there?

I was impressed and amazed at how many of my students incorporated some sort of performance in their presentations.  Josh taught Frost’s poem “Home Burial” and had 3 volunteers perform the different parts to show the contrast in mood.  Tyler assigned each of his classmates a line of a Plath poem and asked them to create a physical movement to express the tone in the line.

My students quickly realized that performance is key to understanding and chose to incorporate in all facets of our classroom.  I know that with performance my students are engaged, class is interactive, students aren’t insecure about delivering presentations and the senior slump hasn’t happened.

Here are the top 5 things I did (and suggest!) to incorporate Folger strategies in the AP classroom:

1. Start early.  On the very first day of class we studied Shakespeare’s  “Seven Ages of Man” — then we performed it. I asked students which helped them understand the poem more — sitting in desks and reading it or standing and moving?  You can guess which they chose (moving!).  They were hooked from day one.

2.  Take it to a new level.  Ask students not just to show plot with their performances but also tone and mood (and all the other AP Lit buzz words).  Tone and mood are tricky to teach and getting students to label facial expressions and motions with tone words has been helpful in eventually writing about and analyzing tone and mood.

3.  Tableaux the theme.  Theme is another one of those AP Lit buzz words and tableauxs can take as little as 5 minutes to pull together. I put students in groups, tell them to discuss the theme and find a physicalization of that theme then we FREEZE.  This is an effective way to get students to visualize the author’s purpose.

4.  Compare and contrast performances.  The AP exam could potentially have two poems on the poetry essay question (could this be the year it appears??) so we have spent a good chunk of time this year comparing performances which leads to comparing tone, theme and text analysis.

I’ve done this in a variety of ways:  compared actors’ performances (for example several versions of Hamlet), compared student performances of a scene (give the same scene to two groups of students and see how they interpret it) or compared how we interpret something to how a director interpreted it — and WHY.  While comparing we discuss the “why” a lot.  Why did you do that movement?  What in the scene made you think that?  What line from the text (evidence!) made you think that was the way to interpret that?

5.  Encourage performance.  I’ve found performing and earning the endless applause of classmates increases self esteem and confidence in close reading and analysis of text.  My students have the confidence and believe they WILL pass the exam–I truly believe that is half the battle.  They have been armed with strategies to make the poem come alive or the prose jump off the page.

Don’t be surprised if during the exam my students start acting out the lines! What will your students do on test day to guarantee a passing score?  What tricks have you taught them to be successful?

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A while back I wrote Shakespeare in Other Words citing the reasons teachers should avoid using “No Fear” or “Made Easy” or any other parallel text edition in their classroom. Needless to say, it generated over 40 comments, including some from an author of “The Shakespeare Novels.”

But now I realize that simply dismissing those books wasn’t enough. What should teachers do, who not only find it difficult to teach the real stuff, but who may struggle with the language themselves? So here are a few suggestions:

  1. Since students can access the No Fear versions online for free, why not suggest or even encourage them to read them at home. And then read and teach the real text in class.
  2. Start with “baby steps.”
  3. Begin with a 15 Minute Play. There are eight of them on the Folger site.
  4. Pull out 30 juicy lines from the play you’ll be studying, put each line on a 3×5 note card, and give one to each student. Then they find a partner, come up with a scene using only the words on the cards, and perform the scene for the class.
  5. Instead of Made Easy texts, create a Made Shorter text. Using the Folger Digital Texts, copy a scene, paste it into a Word file, and edit it to a version that your students can handle.
  6. If you want to teach Iambic Pentameter, watch the video called Living Iambic Pentameter, but DO NOT SHOW IT TO YOUR CLASS. Instead, do your own version in class. No kid wants to watch other kids having fun.

Those are just a few ways to get past the fear and teach Shakespeare for Real. Post your comments below with other suggestions.

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A simple question, but one that will help us know what kind of resources to share with you. Thanks for participating! (Note: You can check more than one box.)

Secondary School Shakespeare Festival 2013

Secondary School Shakespeare Festival 2013

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During our first office hours on Twitter last week, we received this question:

@FolgerED How does one get buy in through the language, when it’s a language irrelevant to modern pop culture?#folgerofficehours

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!

Peggy O’Brien is the Director of Education at the Folger Shakespeare Library. Follow her on Twitter at @obrienfolger or send her an email at pobrien@folger.edu.

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Folger Education office hours

What our office might look like if you came in for Folger office hours. Notice the bookcase!

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!

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IMG_9260Something very special happens when you have students up on their feet, with Shakespeare’s language in their mouths, performing for each other, and learning from each other.

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 pobrien@folger.edu.

IMG_5530 IMG_6160 IMG_6867

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With 2013 behind us, we review some of our most popular posts from the year:

How To Teach Your Children Shakespeare

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.

Centos: Mix and match!

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.

Plays of Preference

Why is it that Shakespeare’s messy, uncomfortable plays stick with us so?

Is Shakespeare Literature?

“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:

 

What were some of your favorite Making A Scene blog posts from 2013? What blog topics should we explore in 2014?

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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!

R&J Animated

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!)

Romeo+JulietSome 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.

Shakespeare in LoveThere’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?

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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.

Isabella (Karen Peakes), Mark Zeisler (Duke), Measure for Measure, Folger Theatre, 2006. Directed by Aaron Posner. Carol Pratt.

Isabella (Karen Peakes), Mark Zeisler (Duke), Measure for Measure, Folger Theatre, 2006. Directed by Aaron Posner. Carol Pratt.

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 AdoTwelfth 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.

Kate Eastwood Norris (Beatrice), P.J. Sosko (Benedick), Much Ado About Nothing, Folger Theatre, 2005. Directed by Nick Hutchison. Photo: Carol Pratt. Carol Pratt.

Kate Eastwood Norris (Beatrice), P.J. Sosko (Benedick), Much Ado About Nothing, Folger Theatre, 2005. Directed by Nick Hutchison. Photo: Carol Pratt. Carol Pratt.

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?

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