Archive for May, 2012

When he wrote  “Home Thoughts from Abroad” in April 1845, Robert Browning yearned to be back home in England. But in the spring and summer of 2012, Shakespeare lovers might yearn to be in England  because Shakespeare is blooming everywhere.

As part of the Cultural Olympiad, the London 2012 Festival features more Shakespeare than has ever been assembled anywhere.

The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) is hosting the World Shakespeare Festival which features a celebration of Shakespeare as the world’s playwright with over 50 arts organizations and thousands of UK and international artists,  thousands of teachers and young people, seventy productions and exhibitions, plus events and activities, right across the UK and online. The RSC estimates that one million tickets will be on sale, so if you get to England, you’re sure to see tons of Shakespeare.

The Folger will be represented at the RSC’s Worlds Together, an international conference exploring the value of Shakespeare and the arts in young people’s lives. The conference, held at London’s Tate Modern, runs from Thursday September 6 to Saturday September 8.

Meanwhile at Shakespeare’s Globe, one can see 37 plays in 37 languages in six weeks. Their Globe to Globe program began in April and runs until June 9. Some of the more unusual choices are Romeo and Juliet in Brazilian Portuguese,  The Merchant of Venice in Hebrew, and The Taming of the Shrew in Urdu. According to the Globe, if you’re prepared to stand, you can see every play of Shakespeare’s, each in a different language, for only £100.

Shakespeare: Staging the World is on at the British Museum from July 19  to  November 25. According to the museum, “the exhibition provides a unique insight into the emerging role of London as a world city, seen through the innovative perspective of Shakespeare’s plays. It also explores the pivotal role of the playhouse as a window to the world outside London, and the playwright’s importance in shaping a new sense of national identity.” Find out more about the exhibition and book your tickets here.

But what about those of us who can’t get to England?

Well, summertime is always outdoor Shakespeare time, so check out those productions in your local area.

Starting in June, BBC television will air new versions of four history plays — Richard II, both parts of Henry IV and Henry V. All four were directed by Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes and feature Jeremy Irons, Julie Walters, Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary Crawley from Downton Abbey) and John Hurt. Those of us in the US may eventually get them via PBS, though no date has yet been set.

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Sometimes before jumping into the physical art of performance, we like to explore other media with students to expand their discussion of Shakespeare. We’ve mentioned the myriad of ways students approach an Illumination Project in our High School Fellowship Program, shown you examples of “remixing” Shakespeare’s text with audio effects, tried our hand at animating scenes with free online programs, explored the crossover potential of Shakespeare with comics, and considered creative writing projects centered on Shakespeare’s plays (with or without Vampires)…

What else?


Students at St. Peter’s create collages for Macbeth

Two of our Shakespeare Steps Out projects during the 8-visit program are visual art projects. In one the students draw a picture based on the Queen Mab speech from Romeo and Juliet of what they see in their imagination when they listen. The colorful and inspired images that come from this project never cease to amaze us. The second project takes place after the students have been cast for their festival performance – they are then given magazines and publications in which to find words and images they believe describe or represent their character. They have a lot of fun cutting and gluing – yes – but they also have to determine who their character is, what that character wants, what it is that defines them, in order to put it into pictures.

Art is a big part of the Folger’s collection, as well. Our Library has been collecting paintings, statues, and other renderings of Shakespeare and his characters from the last 400 years, and the variety of ways people imagine certain scenes or characters is worth the effort to study.

What is it about Shakespeare’s text that makes it so ripe for picturing? Besides Queen Mab, are there any passages that leap out at you for students to listen and create from?

Have your students created any artwork related to Shakespeare?

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