By Deborah Gascon
When I introduced myself as one of the master teachers (the other was the fabulous Michael LoMonico) to the 29 teachers participating in the Folger’s first Summer Academy, I told them the Folger was a magical place. I thought about the unicorn painted on a screen on the ceiling of the Folger theater and the quote around it from As You Like It: “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players.” A magical and mysterious image surrounded by magical, mysterious words.
This indescribable magic was a feeling I felt during my first experience at the Folger in 2012 that I just couldn’t express or convey through words (mine or Shakespeare’s) during the academy introductions. But a week later, after five very long and very full 12-hour days, every participant came to understand that magic and mystery that my words couldn’t describe, and I was privileged, once again, to see how Folger Education can transform a teacher’s life, his/her students’ lives and classroom practice.
I knew that to help everyone understand that magic and the mystery in our short week of the Summer Academy, some work would be involved. And boy, did we work.
We read. We read Hamlet (using the 3-D Shakespeare strategy described here). Then we read Hamlet again and compared the Quarto One “To Be or Not to Be” soliloquy which doesn’t include “that is the question” but rather “I there’s the point.” Yep. It was changed! Then we read the 1604 version of Hamlet. Then we read the 1623 First Folio version of Hamlet. I think you get the point about how much we read. But with every reading came deeper understanding and a closer connection with Shakespeare’s words.