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Posts Tagged ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’

By Aleksander Zywicki

Alex Zywicki in front of the Folger. (Image: Alex Zywicki)

Aleks Zywicki in front of the Folger. (Image: Aleks Zywicki)

 

This past July, I had the great fortune of attending the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Summer Academy in Washington, D.C.

 

There, I attended lectures given by master teachers and scholars; I played the part of the Ghost in a performance of Act One of Hamlet; I held—in these two hands—Walt Whitman’s copy of the Sonnets, a letter written and signed by Henry David Thoreau, and an authentic First Folio; though, mostly, I learned in a way that I had not, in years.

 

I cannot honestly say that I have ever learned during the typical professional development opportunities that I have been offered. I have never been inspired by a webinar, nor have I been pushed towards daring, original thoughts during a mandatory workshop. I have been informed of products. I was told about strategies.

 

However, teachers know what learning looks and feels like and it does not resemble the buying and selling of a gimmick. It requires a seemingly impossible level of concentration, desire, fear and motivation. It demands that a person grow comfortable with continuously dismantling an intricate and delicate level of understanding that had once been declared, “finished,” only to be rebuilt again, and again.

 

Throughout my education I was taught to want to learn and that experience made me want to teach others to do the same. When I left Washington, I felt confident in my ability to do so, in a way that I had never known before.

 

***

 

What had convinced me so thoroughly that the skills I was learning at the Folger could lead to authentic learning for my students, was that they emphasized student engagement with Shakespeare’s words—not a watered down alternative to his words; not theories that attempt to unravel his words; just his words.

 

One of the lessons I appreciated most is titled “3-D Shakespeare.” It gets students right inside a scene, and puts that scene on its feet.

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By Corinne Viglietta

Which poem is in your pocket ? (Source: F. Nivelon, The rudiments of genteel behavior, 1737. Folger Collection. )

Which poem is in your pocket ? (Source: F. Nivelon, The rudiments of genteel behavior, 1737. Folger Collection. )

Happy Poem in Your Pocket Day, everyone! We’re taking a little break from our Teaching Twelfth Night with Technology series to celebrate the power of verse with you.

If you’d like some ideas for engaging students and colleagues in this national poetry fest, or if your pocket is without a poem (gasp!), keep reading.

When I was teaching high school English, today was my favorite day of the year—and a big community day for our school. A few weeks before Poem in Your Pocket Day, the faculty and staff—STEM teachers, humanities teachers, support staff, administrators, librarians, you name it—would select which poem they’d be carrying on this day. (Awesome colleagues, right?)

Then, the English teachers would get together and use those poems to create school-wide Poem in Your Pocket scavenger hunts for all of our students. For instance, students might have to recite the first line of Ms. Jackson’s poem (“We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks) or reflect on the anaphora in Mr. Williams’ favorite poem (“If” by Rudyard Kipling).

Or they’d have to share their favorite words from one of the many wonderful Billy Collins picks among the adults.  And there were always two key rules for students: 1) you must ask the adult to read the poem out loud before you ask your scavenger hunt question, and 2) poetry should be buzzing in every corner of school during breaks, passing periods, and lunch—and even during class time, as long as your teacher allows!

By the end of Poem in Your Pocket Day, we grown-ups had gotten to read some of our favorite poems out loud, dozens of times. More importantly, though, students had gotten to hear their teachers and principals and coaches—most of whom were not English teachers—speak some verse and talk about what poetry means to them. I loved one 11th grader’s excuse for being woefully late to lunch: she was asking the Spanish teacher about the finer points of translating a Neruda sonnet.

Speaking of sonnets, you might think that they’re the only way to go if you want to carry Shakespeare in your pocket today. Not true. Shakespeare’s plays are full of poetry, and here are just two of the many examples. Feel free to carry one of these in your pocket today!

Poem #1:

From Romeo and Juliet, 1.5

 

ROMEO, [taking Juliet’s hand]
If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this:
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.
JULIET
Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
Which mannerly devotion shows in this;
For saints have hands that pilgrims’ hands do touch,
And palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss.
ROMEO
Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?
JULIET
Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.
ROMEO
O then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do.
They pray: grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.
JULIET
Saints do not move, though grant for prayers’ sake.
ROMEO
Then move not while my prayer’s effect I take.
[He kisses her.]

 

Poem #2:

From A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 5.1

ROBIN

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this and all is mended:
That you have but slumbered here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend.
If you pardon, we will mend.
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearnèd luck
Now to ’scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long.
Else the Puck a liar call.
So good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.
[He exits.]

 

Corinne Viglietta is Assistant Director of Education at the Folger. She has taught English in DC, Maryland, and France.

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By Folger Education

The testimonials keep coming in, and they’re so much more compelling than anything we could say about the Secondary School Shakespeare Festival. Thank you, festival friends! And happy reading, teachers everywhere!

 

Students at the Secondary Student Festival (photo: Kate Ryan)

Students at the Secondary Student Festival (photo: Kate Ryan)

 

I am an 8th grader at Center City Public Charter School. My class performed the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare. From our teachers we learned that Shakespeare was a poet and he wrote plays that were performed on stage in his theatre. We also learned vocabulary of Shakespeare to prepare us for our performance. I honestly enjoyed our performance at the Folger Theatre. Practicing our lines made us learn responsibility, which helped us succeed. When we remembered our lines we became proud and started to use emotion and come into character. I played Demetrius, a male character, and I am female. I wanted to play a male because it was more of a challenge than playing a woman. Also, I know that in Shakespeare’s time men had to play women because it was considered immoral for people to watch women perform. I had fun playing Shakespeare games in between plays and watching other schools perform. We were the youngest of the group, being in middle school. We saw how advanced and devoted to character the other schools were and felt proud for getting recognized for our first performance.

  • Ramani, student, Washington, DC

 

There is something so very powerful in words.  They have the power to build and in the wrong mouths, the power to destroy. In the glorious Folger Theatre, the words of Shakespeare took on life and power of their own.  In the mouths of over a hundred high school students the immortal lines of Shakespeare were fresh and new. The talented students from Catoctin High School and Sherwood High School breathed a fresh life into familiar characters such as Macbeth and Caliban.  Montgomery Blair High treated us all to a lovely interpretation of Pericles – not read by many adults, let alone 15-year-olds!  Queen Elizabeth School delighted us all by performing a lively retelling of Comedy of Errors – with actual twins!

The Mistress of the Revels and the team around her made everyone feel loved, welcomed, and well cared for.

But the most powerful words all day were the words the students shared with one another. Students shouted and cheered for peers. Students critiqued one another with generosity and grace. The power of kind words reigned. By the end of the day everyone had made a hundred new friends.  Emails were exchanged, selfies (groupies) were taken, and hugs were given freely and eagerly.  It was a magical day where words were celebrated and we all were blessed to have been there.

  • Karen Stitely, teacher and drama director, Thurmont, Maryland

 

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Photo: PBS

 

The second season of Shakespeare Uncovered begins on January 30th.  The Folger has been asked to work with WNET THIRTEEN to create support material for teachers and their students. I’ve been lucky to have seen the series already and want to share some of the highlights with you.

Some of the Learning Media Resources have already been posted. Each resource takes clips from the episode and includes Teaching Tips, Discussion Questions, Handouts, and the appropriate Standards.  Take a look at these:

Just as PBS did with Season 1, all episodes will be streamed for free and available on DVD. I encourage you to watch them. Here is the schedule for Season 2:

  • January 30
    • A Midsummer Night’s Dream hosted by Hugh Bonneville
    • King Lear hosted by Christopher Plummer
  • February 6
    • The Taming of the Shrew with Morgan Freeman
    • Othello with David Harewood
  • February 13
    • Antony & Cleopatra with Kim Cattrall
    • Romeo and Juliet with Joseph Fiennes

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The epiphanies continue! Today is the anniversary of the death of Irish writer James Joyce, whose famous epiphanies, a century later, still inspire conversation and inquiry. (Plus, did you know that Hamlet was a major source for Joyce, who gave a series of lectures on Shakespeare?)

We think it’s fitting, then, today, to offer a second installment of your teaching epiphanies. Read on, get inspired, and keep doing the most important, life-changing work on the planet!

Students  in James Sheridan’s classroom at YesPrep Houston

Students in James Sheridan’s classroom at YesPrep Houston

 

 

Six months later, I still own my TSI monologue; now my students perform to know the joy of owning Shakespeare too.

  • Stefanie Jochman, Wisconsin

 

 

Before we start Shakespeare, I ask if anyone knows how to rap badly.  After we hear a couple of examples, I ask why bad rap is bad rap.  It usually does not take too long to steer the discussion to one of “beats” and rhythm.  Then I ask the students if they have ever been bothered by people not knowing how to pronounce their names. Next I post poetic feet and we figure out which students’ names fit each category.

Here are how some of this year’s names fit: Iamb (- ‘ )  Chrisbel, Rajiv, Shiann, Luis Troche ( ‘ -) Blanca, Louis, Kaitlin, Chandler Spondee  ( ‘  ‘ ) Anna, Dennis, Maya, Manny Anapest (-  –  ‘ ) Netiffah, Alyna (A-lean-a) Dactly ( ‘  –  – ) Emely, Samuel, Stefanie, Jaivonni.  With a playful class, this can go on for more than one day as students purposefully mispronounce names. For many this serves as an epiphany about how rhythm drives how we communicate (and miscommunicate.)

  • Ginny Schmitt DeFrancisci, New York

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Shakesbear the mascot

Shakesbear, the club mascot.

By David Fulco

After-school programs find a way to weave themselves into the fabric of a school. At my school, all sixth and seventh grade students participate in after-school activities from 2:15-4:30pm, five days a week.

It has been more than evident during the school day that students are not only enjoying their after-school activities, but also building an appreciation for them.

Students in “Fit Club” ask for apples instead of candy at lunch. Students in “Computer Technology” build radio-controlled robots and walk them from class to class. There is a buzz and an energy in the air after school that is palpable.

And what of the Shakespeareans working through A Midsummer Night’s Dream?

The work my seventh grade Shakespeare troupe is doing after school is also starting to permeate the rest of their school day. In ELA, students are writing crossover pieces in a dystopian unit in which they choose 2-3 characters from different tales to create mash-ups of plots and themes. Titania has made an appearance in a story with Maleficent – the connection between the Indian boy and Aurora perhaps supplying the crux of the story arc.

“Helena from the Bronx” is now a popular drawing for the students to doodle in their notebooks. Helena wears her hair in a tight bun with a midriff shirt and a belly button ring, with a speech bubble saying, “The more I love, the more he hateth me”. (1.1.204)

But perhaps the most influential… (more…)

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door knob david fulcoBy David A. Fulco

“When are we getting our costumes?”

It was the third day of my after-school program—Drama (what the kids called it)/Theater (what the school called it)/Shakespeare Troupe (what I called it)—and the kids were getting antsy.

Relying heavily on my class with Caleen Jennings during the 2014 Teaching Shakespeare Institute, I had directed my group of fourteen 7th grade girls through a host of “physicalizing” exercises over the first two days, having them work in groups to show what “Wednesday” looked like, what “Math” looked like, and what “Dismissal at 2:10” looked like.

And we were getting there—at least, when the students weren’t playing in the curtains, or hiding offstage.

But here they were on the Friday that marked the end of the first full week of school. They were in three lines of various lengths and dimensions. Much like I was this past summer at TSI 2014, they were standing in front of an easel with the words to “Oh grim-looked night” from A Midsummer Night’s Dream written in purple Sharpie. They had physicalized every word. We had practiced as a whole troupe and in small groups. And now was the big reveal. (more…)

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By David Fulco

Puck

Puck: “Why must they fear me?”

   

As the cold weather sets in, the auditorium in a small school gets used more frequently than before. Where in the fall my Shakespeare Troupe had the run of the auditorium after school, now we split the space with cheerleaders, holiday concerts and even the basketball team, which uses the space as a way station before games.

My students need the space for all the things that a troupe normally uses a stage for – blocking, memorization, voice projection – but as seventh graders, they especially need it for confidence. The stage is powerful and it is not something that I can easily replicate in my classroom on our “off” days from the space.

It is impossible though to be completely focused on work during the days that we have the auditorium, especially as we continue our work with A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In the midst of rehearsing scenes from the first three acts, I was inspired by a group working on Act 3, Scene 2. (more…)

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~ by Emily Marquet
(if you missed the beginning of Emily’s adventure, click HERE)

Day 2: En Kreyol… S’il Vous Plait

It was discussed and decided as a cast on the second day of rehearsal that most of the play would be told in Kreyol. We determined that it was more important to tell the story as clearly as possible than keep Shakespeare’s language intact. Due to the wide age range of our audience, Kreyol would be by far the most widely understood language. Also, it was important to the cast to re-tell the story in a Haitian sense, using Haitian idioms and turns-of-speech. In other words, markedly making it an original take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream while maintaining Shakespeare’s story.

Coming into the experience as a Shakespeare purist, I have to admit I struggled a lot with “giving up” so much of the original text. Were we still telling Shakespeare’s story? That transition over the course of four days was my biggest learning curve and one I eventually embraced when I saw the final production.

I should also add that Kreyol was not the only language spoken. I would say about 30% of our one hour cut remained in English and about 60% was translated into Kreyol. The other 10% was spoken in French and Spanish. All four languages are taught at LCS and all four languages are spoken by Haitians. Patrick Moynihan commented on that choice saying, “If Shakespeare wrote a play in Haiti, he would definitely have characters speak in Kreyol and other characters not speak in Kreyol- both to their benefit and to their disadvantage. In other words, he would buffoon the language. That’s part of the whole Shakespearean commentary, characters putting on airs with language and getting it wrong…”

One example of this took place with our actor playing Bottom. English happened to be his first language and Kreyol his second. The actor chose specific moments when the character Bottom was talking a big game or not being truthful and decided to speak those lines in Kreyol. The end result was hilarious: here was an actor botching a language attempting to impress native Kreyol speakers. The universality of his character shone through that choice.

Day 2’s objective was to block the first half of the play. A lofty goal indeed! Elle and I had carefully divided the scenes into entrances and exits or “bite-sized chunks” as we called it, and split up the cast accordingly so that everyone was always working on something.

We opened rehearsal with a number of theatre games like, “Build a Machine,” and “Zip, Zip.” The love machine we made was pretty steamy!

Naturally, as with any theatre process, some hurdles came up during rehearsal. Halfway through rehearsal a number of the older boys (our Oberon, Puck, Lysander, and Francis Flute) disappeared. It was revealed a minute later they had gone to soccer practice. Apparently, we were going to have a talk about commitment to the play rehearsal!

Rehearsal came to a close after successfully (or semi-successfully, considering we had lost most of our leading men to sports) running the first half of the play. Hurray!

That night we worked with the lovers. In our cut, they ended up being the set of characters with the most lines so we worked on projection and did a lengthy vocal warm-up.

Then we began wading through the huge lover’s fight in Act III. First, the actors did the whole scene with just movement and telling the story with their bodies. Elle and I gave verbal hints as to what action happened next, but we tried to let the four actors direct and block themselves. Huge success! Giving the actors clear instructions yet keeping the structure free enough for them to play wildly and make big discoveries on their own was certainly the most effective directing tool Elle and I discovered. Additionally, we wanted the actors to feel like the play was undoubtably theirs; that this rendition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream could only have taken place at LCS in Haiti.

Emily Marquet is currently an intern with Folger’s Education and Public Programs divisions. She has worked with the American Shakespeare Center as a Camp Counselor and Assistant Director, and is a recent graduate of NYU with a Fine Arts major in Drama and minor in Social and Cultural Analysis. For the next part of her experiences in Haiti, check back to this blog on March 22 and 29!

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Students perform The Tempest for the 2010 Children’s Festival

In the age of  more and more Tinkerbell movies(yes there’s another one coming soon), one can understand an elementary educator’s propensity towards producing A Midsummer Night’s Dream with their students. Young girls can be quite drawn to the idea of putting on those fairy wings and singing a sweet lullaby to their Queen. Budding young actors love the idea of strutting their stuff as mechanicals preparing a play within the play. And with the hijinx that ensue between Oberon, Puck and the lovers, there is no end to the potential for side-splitting laughs with the children. Also, from a teacher’s standpoint the language is likely far clearer and easier to teach than other Shakespeare works.

However. Midsummer is not the only play that can be made suitable for performance by elementary students! I suggest that young troupes may dare to take on plays with other thematic elements that might be appealing to elementary children.  Why not tap into the Harry Potter streak and throw a little Tempest into the mix? Plenty of  potential for casting would be wizards, sprites and strange creatures there. What about the longing for power and glory and the sheer menace in Macbeth or Richard III? Betrayal, treachery, really cool sword fights, hello? Kids can shock you with their ability to handle the complexities of Hamlet.

Don’t want to go to that dark place with your students? The antics in Twelfth Night, As You Like It or Comedy of Errors can also be a pleasant departure from the norm. Mistaken identity and genderbending are always a hit!

What do you think? Should we challenge ourselves before we send another fairy traipsing across the stage? Or when working with young students is it best to go with a play somewhat less challenging, more familiar and that has more party store accessible costuming choices?

Should you decide to perform something other than Midsummer with your younger students this year, here’s a movie trailer sure to satisfy your Fairie sweet tooth:

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