Archive for March, 2010

Spring has Sprung here at the Folger, and with it rehearsals for next month’s exciting performances of HAMLET, and preparations for Shakespeare’s Birthday Open House on April 25th and the Children’s Festival in May!

The Elizabethan Garden at the Folger features flowers and herbs from Shakespeare’s plays!

To celebrate, here are some springtime quotes from the ol’ Bard to put you in a blooming mood!

It was a lover and his lass,
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,
That o’er the green corn-field did pass
In the spring time, the only pretty ring time,
When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding:
Sweet lovers love the spring.
As You Like It V.iii

Yes, if this present quality of war,
Indeed the instant action: a cause on foot
Lives so in hope as in an early spring
We see the appearing buds; which to prove fruit,
Hope gives not so much warrant as despair
That frosts will bite them.
2 Henry IV I.iii

Now ’tis the spring, and weeds are shallow-rooted;
Suffer them now, and they’ll o’ergrow the garden
And choke the herbs for want of husbandry.
2 Henry VI III.i

Faster than spring-time showers comes thought
on thought,
And not a thought but thinks on dignity.
2 Henry VI III.i

Orpheus with his lute made trees,
And the mountain tops that freeze,
Bow themselves when he did sing:
To his music plants and flowers
Ever sprung; as sun and showers
There had made a lasting spring.
Henry VIII III.i

The April ‘s in her eyes: it is love’s spring,
And these the showers to bring it on. Be cheerful.
Antony and Cleopatra III.ii

The spring is near when green geese are a-breeding.
Loves Labours Lost I.i

See where she comes, apparell’d like the spring,
Graces her subjects, and her thoughts the king
Of every virtue gives renown to men!
Pericles I.i

Earth’s increase, foison plenty,
Barns and garners never empty,
Vines and clustering bunches growing,
Plants with goodly burthen bowing;
Spring come to you at the farthest
In the very end of harvest!
Scarcity and want shall shun you;
Ceres’ blessing so is on you.
The Tempest IV.i

Welcome, my son: who are the violets now
That strew the green lap of the new come spring?
Richard II V.ii

For thou are pleasant, gamesome, passing courteous,
But slow in speech, yet sweet as spring-time flowers:
The Taming of the Shrew II.i

O earth, I will befriend thee more with rain,
That shall distil from these two ancient urns,
Than youthful April shall with all his showers:
In summer’s drought I’ll drop upon thee still;
In winter with warm tears I’ll melt the snow
And keep eternal spring-time on thy face,
So thou refuse to drink my dear sons’ blood.
Titus Andronicus III.i

Cesario, by the roses of the spring,
By maidhood, honour, truth and every thing,
I love thee so, that, maugre all thy pride,
Nor wit nor reason can my passion hide.
Twelfth Night III.i

O, how this spring of love resembleth
The uncertain glory of an April day,
Which now shows all the beauty of the sun,
And by and by a cloud takes all away!
The Two Gentlemen of Verona I.iii

I would I had some flowers o’ the spring that might
Become your time of day; and yours, and yours,
That wear upon your virgin branches yet
Your maidenheads growing:
The Winter’s Tale IV.iv

Welcome hither,
As is the spring to the earth.
The Winter’s Tale V.i

From you have I been absent in the spring,
When proud-pied April dress’d in all his trim
Hath put a spirit of youth in every thing…
Sonnet 98

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A picture is worth a thousand words… on Tuesday, I wrote about the wealth of possibilities that lie in students working on illumination projects using Shakespeare’s text. But better to show than tell! Below are a few examples of some of the work that students have done in Folger’s High School Fellowship Program. And to kick off our upcoming month about Hamlet, all of the projects were created using that particular play by Folger fellows of 2008.

A Psychological Portrait of Hamlet
In this power point presentation, Rafael combined text and images to form an impressionistic portrait of the character Hamlet. His research entailed reading various psychological interpretations of the character, including Freudian analysis. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ s theories about the five stages of grief also influenced his concept about the motivations for Hamlet’s behavior in the play.

See Rafael’s powerpoint: Hamlet Powerpoint

Hamlet: “To be or not to be” The Graphic Novel
Choosing Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy as his test subject, Jeffrey sought to discover the best ways in which Shakespeare could be conveyed through the format of a comic book. He hoped this combination might spark interest in Shakespeare in kids and teens who might be put off by Shakespeare’s language.

Read Jeffrey’s comic: Hamlet Comic

“To Be Or Not To Be”: The Ultimate Nihilist Question
As part of her exploration of nihilism in Hamlet, Renee created a college. She wanted to use an image of Hamlet with the skull because she felt this illustrated Hamlet questioning death. She used the “To be or not to be” soliloquy from 3.2 because, for her, it sumed up the ultimate nihilist question: is life worth living? And she felt it gave the typical nihilistic answer, which is: no, it is not. Renee made Hamlet and the skull black and white so that it would stand out the most. She also felt that using black and white was good way of reiterating the two extremities of his question, to live or to die. Says Renee, “Collage is one of my favorite types of art to make, so I was thrilled to able to incorporate it into my project.”

See Renee’s collage:

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Anyone who has spent a brief moment of time with someone from Folger Education knows that we are avid believers in introducing students to Shakespeare through performance-based teaching, that is, an interactive approach to the study of literature in which students participate in a close reading of text through intellectual, physical, and vocal engagement. Certainly, that may include students participating in language-based activities, working on scenes from the text, or putting together a full or truncated production of the play being studied. But what is the total extent of performance-based teaching? Are there other interactive approaches that can engage a student intellectually, physically, and vocally?

One of the things I have come to appreciate most about Folger Shakespeare Library is the diversity of approaches that the Folger as an institution takes towards the study of Shakespeare. While other establishments may be a theatre, a museum, a library, or a research organization, the Folger houses all of these. Additionally, we are a conservation lab, an early music consort, a poetry and lectures hotspot, and a place where students from grade three through post-graduate studies can learn more about Shakespeare.

I don’t mention these things to brag. I say this because I love the fact that the very nature of the Folger reflects what I believe about the study of Shakespeare: that the methods of approach are as diverse as people are, and the possibilities are only limited by our own creativity.

The Folger’s High School Fellowship program includes a component known as an illumination project. The illumination project allows students to take Shakespeare’s text and apply it to a different medium in order to explore meaning, enhance understanding, and present a point of view. It is an opportunity for students to integrate new thoughts, ideas, and attitudes explored through the works of Shakespeare with a pre-existing interest or area of study. It is a chance to carry out a valuable, in-depth study of Shakespeare through a medium that is connected to their own interests and to experience how Shakespeare may be applied to other fields of study.

In the past, illumination projects have been approached in a number of ways and have involved a variety of mediums. Here are some examples of the types of approaches that could be used in this project:

  • Visual Art – i.e., creating drawings, photographs, mixed media, comic book, etc. that integrates Shakespeare’s text.
  • Music – i.e., “scoring” text to self-written songs, composing music for Shakespeare’s songs or other pieces of Shakespeare’s text, etc.
  • Technology – i.e., remixing Shakespeare through Audacity or Garageband, creating a photo montage with sounds and text through Photostory, designing a website, animation, powerpoint, or podcasts, etc.
  • Creative Writing – i.e., writing/illustrating a children’s story that distills Shakespeare’s text, fusing personal poetry with Shakespeare’s text, etc.
  • Theatrical Design – i.e., designing costume renderings, a set model, soundscape, and/or light plot based on your own directorial concept of a scene, etc.

Perhaps there are students in your class who would rather eat hot coals than stand in front of a group of people and act in a play. Perhaps, for whatever reason, this is not the year your school will be able to produce a Shakespeare play. Do not be daunted. See what happens when you let your students loose on Shakespeare’s text with their own creative outlets. The results may be surprising, exciting, and delightful.

To see examples of past student work, visit the High School Fellowship Program online gallery.

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This has been an interesting, even exciting week, for Shakespeare fans.  A “Lost” play, called DOUBLE FALSEHOOD, has been found.  Whether you believe this is the work of Shakespeare or not, it has once again raised the issue of authorship.  If you listened to NPR earlier this week, then you heard Professor Brean Hammond make the case, however briefly, that DOUBLE FALSEHOOD is a play that Shakespeare certainly had a hand in writing.  In essence, according to the piece on NPR, in 1727 Lewis Theobald staged a performance a play he claimed was a “lost” play by Shakespeare.  It was called DOUBLE FALSEHOOD.  The play was labeled a fake and dropped off the literary radar shortly after it appeared on stage.  Now, Arden Shakespeare has published the play based on the research of Professor Hammond.  The play is about love and betrayal, where one man tries to steal the affections of his best friend’s fiancee.

Professor Hammond was interviewed by Renee Montagne for the NPR piece.  The interview is worth listening to, and it includes Professor Hammond reading parts of the play he says establish a clear link to Shakespeare’s style of writing and use of language.  The play is available on Arden’s website.  The question:  Is it really a work of Shakespeare’s?

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Jacqui O’Hanlon, Director of Education at the RSC, wrote a letter to The Guardian (www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2009/nov/o7/gcses-school-curriculum-shakespeare) about the importance of Shakespeare in the curriculum.  Folger Education has been advocating for the performance-based teaching of Shakespeare in the schools for more than twenty-five years.   Folger Education defines performance-based teaching as “… an interactive approach to the study of literature, particularly Shakespeare’s plays and poems, in which students participate in a close reading of the text through intellectual, physical, and vocal engagement.”  Getting students up and on their feet speaking the lines, questioning the text, trying out different ways of making meaning in a scene can help prepare students for other challenging texts.  We believe that this approach to teaching Shakespeare can yield benefits for teaching other subjects and literary genres as well.  When students are actively engaged in their learning, they can achieve tremendous results.

While they are up on their feet, they should also be engaged in speaking the language that Shakespeare used when he wrote his plays and poems.  Telling the story of Romeo and Juliet in modern language isn’t the same as speaking the language used in Shakespeare’s play.  If students are not speaking Shakespeare’s language, then they really aren’t “doing Shakespeare.”  At a recent workshop for students, we helped them to see how easily they could access Shakespeare’s text and make sense of it.  We believe that all students can work with Shakespeare’s language.  At our recent Secondary School Festival  more than 1,200 students performed scenes from many of Shakespeare’s plays, and they demonstrated a clear understanding of the text.  In May, when hundreds of students in grades 3-6 at schools across Washington DC and the surrounding area tread the boards at the Folger Theatre for our Emily Jordan Children’s Festival, we will once again see youngsters engaging the text of Shakespeare’s plays and having a great time doing so.  Shakespeare in the original is for all students.

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Yesterday, March 10, marked the 7th and final day of the Folger’s Secondary Festival.  Saying that it’s the 30th might make it seem staid, but really the Festival is nothing if not fresh and new every single day. With over 1500 students in grades 7-12 in attendance over 7 days – how could it not be?

 Sure – we saw about 8 Midsummers, 6 Macbeths, 5 Much Ados, and 4 Hamlets – but each one was different in style, characterizations, cuts, and concept.  No matter how many times I watch a ‘Pyramus’ “bravely broach his blameful bloody breast” I can’t help but laugh out loud – along with the hundreds of audience members also enjoying themselves. Each Hamlet finds a way to question the meaning of life so that it sounds like new when we hear “to be or not to be.” And each set of witches in Macbeth made their spells spooky, evocative, and downright gleeful.

 Even with the popular classics in prominence, we had schools performing scenes from Lear, Pericles, and even one full-cut of Timon of Athens!  Some even had student directors and adaptors work with their peers to cut and rehearse scripts (from texts written 400 years ago) which they then presented to hundreds of students their own age. Tell me that’s not inspiring.

 It certainly inspired our cast of Commentators – three professionals from DC Theatre and Education joined us each day to discuss the students’ performances. Based on their evaluations, we are able to award not only our Brian Cabe – Spirit of the Festival Award or Peggy O’Brien – Award for Comedy; but also awards for Excellence in Acting, Wiley Witches, or Dynamic Duos who stood out.  All of these awards are listed on the Folger Facebook Fan Page.

 You can see photos from each day of the Festival on Snapfish (there are literally thousands of photos, so give yourself time!). Take a look, and leave a comment if you were once a part of the Folger Festival, or participate in one of the many other Shakespeare Festivals across the country!

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Once again, there seem to be several new Shakespeare films in the pipeline. Since these films are not generally Blockbusters, their fate is often in limbo. And some of these will appear on television rather than in theaters.

But here are a few that we’ve heard of, in no particular order.

  • Michael Radford, who previously directed Al Pacino in The Merchant of Venice (2004), has cast Pacino in the title role in King Lear. It’s currently in pre-production.
  • With an all-star cast, Coriolanus is set to start shooting next week in Serbia.  Ralph Fiennes will direct and play the title role along with cast members Brian Cox, Vanessa Redgrave,  Gerard Butler, and John Kani.
  • Already in post-production and awaiting the fallout from the Miramax mess is Julie Taymor’sThe Tempest. It stars Helen Mirren as Prospera, and features Alan Cumming as Sebastian, Felicity Jones as Miranda, , Chris Cooper as Antonio, Djimon Hounsou as Caliban,  and Alfred Molina as Stephano. A release date has not been set.
  • Those who missed Patrick Stewart’s Macbeth when it toured the world in 2008 will get a chance when Rupert Goold’s film is released. It looks like it will air onPBS in the U.S.
  • And speaking of Patrick Stewart, he plays Claudius opposite David Tennant in the highly acclaimed production of Hamlet. The DVD is set to go on sale on May 4, 2010.

Please add your comments about any of these.

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