Emily Jordan Folger Children’s Festival, 2013.
Folger Shakespeare Library.
Last week we wrapped up our annual Secondary School Shakespeare Festival.
Students from close to 50 local schools performed 25-minute scenes from Shakespeare plays onstage at the Folger in front of their peers.
(You can see some photos and tweets at #FolgerFest. A lot of fun had by all!)
Now we’re getting ready for our Children’s Festival in May, for local students in grades 3-6!
We’ve got a great thing going on here in the DC area, but student Shakespeare festivals have cropped up in other parts of the U.S. too.
There’s the Shakesperience: NJ festival in May, hosted by the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey in partnership with the Folger Shakespeare Library and Rider University.
Then there’s the Shakespeare Scene Festival for middle school and high school students, held at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock–a festival that was inspired by a workshop at the Folger!
We could go on naming them, but we want to ask you these questions: Is there a student Shakespeare festival in your area? If not, what’s standing in the way of you starting one?
The Folger has some great material to help you organize and prepare for a festival. Find what you need on our website:
And if you’re participating in or preparing for a student Shakespeare festival right now, how’s it going? We’d love to hear from you and your students.
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Students perform a scene from Much Ado About Nothing in the 2012 Folger Seconday School Festival
I’ve written about student festivals before, but I want to come back to the topic again and, this time, look at the thematic lines being explored by students and teachers in their festival performances. Recently, I attended Shakesperience: NJ at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. Two days of absolute delight watching students engage the text and make meaning of Shakespeare’s language. What is not to like about that opportunity? While many of the schools presented selected scenes from the plays, or reduced versions of the play (keeping Shakespeare’s language in tact), some looked at thematic lines and explored them through excerpts from a number of the plays. Among those performances was one on “love’s confusion,” taking scenes from Twelfth Night and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Another explored the “trilogy of evil” in Julius Caesar, Macbeth, and Titus Andronicus. What is interesting about these thematic choices is that the students were directly involved in selecting the scenes used to explore the themes, demonstrating that close reading of the text has a direct link to performance-based work on the plays. Love and evil are two common thematic links to Shakespeare’s plays, to be sure. I wondered what others there were and what plays might be used to present them in performance. So, if you and your students have presented a series of scenes from Shakespeare’s plays linked to a theme, share what you did with the rest of us. It might be a great way to introduce your students to several plays without taking them through the complete work.
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