Archive for September, 2013

Shakespeare Competition
Workshop & Orientation
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
3:30-6:00 PM
225 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016
Join us for a FREE interactive workshop exclusively designed for high school teachers whose schools plan to participate in the 2014 ESU New York Shakespeare Competition.  Both new and returning teachers are welcome to attend.     Download the Flyer
This program includes:
  • an overview of the ESU New York Shakespeare Competition;
  • an intimate look at rare Shakespeare materials from the Morgan’s collection by a curator;
  • a complimentary tour of the museum and its resources for educators by Morgan staff;
  • performance workshops on monologues and sonnets lead by distinguished local educators.
RSVP by October 7th to Katharine Moran (Manager of Shakespeare Education Programs) at shakespeare@esuus.org.

Co-sponsored by The Morgan Library & Museum
  Discover their collection of artistic, literary and musical works
 Learn about their Education Programs

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 examines the question of whether or not setting a Shakespeare production in contemporary times adds to the audience’s understanding of the Bard’s plays in a recent NYT article.

Do you think a contemporary setting creates greater understanding and relevance for students?  Or do you think it just distracts them from the brilliant text?  Let us know your thoughts…

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News Photo

2013 Karen Jeff Scholars (from left to right): Sarah Bever, Kathy Cooley, Michelle Shapiro and Melissa Law.

It’s back to school and back to our monthly “major” entry.  For many, the start of the school year means anxiety about teaching the Bard.  This is due in part to the fact that most educators are only taught Shakespeare’s works; they are not taught how to teach Shakespeare to their students. This lack of training creates an all too frequent perplexity about how to approach Shakespeare in the classroom.  So in this month’s post, we’re turning the spotlight on educators and celebrating a group of dedicated teachers who faced their Shakesfear.  

Teachers, who received scholarships from The English-Speaking Union to attend a Shakespeare professional development program this summer, are now back in their classrooms energized and enriched with new tools for teaching the Bard to their students. They all received the Karen Jeff Scholarship, a competitive award open to New York Board of Education middle and high school teachers who teach English and/or drama.  The scholarship is offered in partnership with the New York City Department of Education’s Office of Arts and Special Projects.

The Karen Jeff Scholars practice performance-based Shakespeare.

Karen Jeff Scholars Kathy Cooley and Melissa Law engaged in performance-based Shakespeare.

The 2013 scholarship recipients were:  Sarah Bever of Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School (Queens); Kathy Cooley of Nathaniel Hawthorne Middle School 74 (Queens); Melissa Law of College Avenue Academy Middle School 22 (Bronx) and Michelle Shapiro of Isobel Rooney Middle School 80 (Bronx).  All expressed their desire to improve their teaching of Shakespeare, so that their students could have a more fulfilling connection to the Bard’s works. As drama teachers, many of them also wanted to increase their self-confidence with Shakespeare’s texts and strengthen their close-reading exercises (common concerns among drama-based educators).

Towards this end, they gave up summer vacation to attend the New York City Shakespeare Set Free Institute. The Shakespeare Set Free Institutes are a collaboration of the English-Speaking Union and the Folger Shakespeare Library, a national leader in Shakespeare education and home to the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare materials. The program combines scholarship, performance and pedagogy with an emphasis on performance-based teaching of Shakespeare that satisfies Common Core State Standards.  More than 175 secondary teachers from thirteen states participated in eight institutes across the country this past summer.  

The Karen Jeff Scholars act out a scene from King Lear.

Karen Jeff Scholars Sarah Bever and Michelle Shapiro with other participants act out a scene from King Lear.

Performance-based teaching is the interactive study of Shakespeare’s plays and poems, in which students participate in close-reading of the text through intellectual,  vocal and physical engagement.  This type of teaching establishes a connection with Shakespeare’s works that may not be present with traditional teaching methods.  It also works across all grade levels and capabilities from Special Ed to ELL to AP students.  It is the most effective approach to teaching the Bard’s performance-based texts in the classroom (and the method advocated by the New York City Educators Roundtable).

During the interactive and intensive SSF Institute, the Karen Jeff Scholars participated in lectures, seminars, performance classes and pedagogical exercises with internationally-renowned Shakespeare scholars and educators. They also received a Shakespeare Set Free Toolkit with lesson plans, videos and textbooks for immediately applying the performance-based lessons. With these new methods and materials for teaching Shakespeare under their belt, each of them expressed new-found confidence and excitement about teaching this school year. Now that they’ve conquered their Shakesfears, we hope they will inspire other teachers to do the same.

Check back during the week of October 23rd for our next spotlight post. 

Read about 2013 SSF Institutes 

View the photo gallery of the 2013 NYC SSF Institute

Watch videos from the 2013 NYC SSF Institute

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The issue of race is currently a hot topic in national (Supreme Court ruling on Voting Rights Act) and local (issue of stop-and-fisk in NYC mayoral race) dialogue.  But where’s the current tie-in to Shakespeare?

The contemporary production of Romeo and Juliet  that just opened on Broadway adds a new racial dynamic to Verona’s two warring houses:  the Montagues are all white and the Capulets are all black.  This decision offers a great opportunity to lead a classroom discussion about race and racism in relation to Shakespeare’s works (even with plays that are not traditionally associated with these issues).

TIP:  Expand the discussion.  The Bard’s canon is full of characters who face racism and prejudice: the Moors Othello and Aaron (Othello and Titus Andronicus); the Middle-eastern Cleopatra (Antony and Cleopatra); the Jew Shylock (The Merchant of Venice) and the Native-American like Caliban (The Tempest). 

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The Acting Company is offering free Shakespeare for Teachers professional development workshops from September through May. These are ideal for all teachers who like Shakespeare, love Shakespeare, have heard of Shakespeare or even have a good, healthy fear of Shakespeare!

A Resource Guide will provide classroom teachers with lessons and reproducibles to enhance the theatre-going experience. Pre- and Post-performance activities will help the students focus on both the literary and emotional impact of the piece.  Role-playing, text analysis, writing-in-role and other drama-based techniques found in the guide will enhance the teachers’ repertoire of exercises and will give students new approaches to literature.

Slots are now available for the following dates: OCTOBER 12 and NOVEMBER 16. (There will also be three sessions in the Spring.)

Questions?  Contact:  212-258-3111 or ekugel@theactingcompany.org.

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Shakespeare for All

Photo Credit: Sara Krulwich (The New York Times)

What do former offenders, nannies, senior citizens, sign language interpreters and taxi drivers have in common?

They all love Shakespeare.  All these groups were featured in Public Works’ recent production of The Tempest.

And if that wasn’t enough diversity, they added gospel singing, Balkan “gypsy” music, Japanese drumming, traditional Mexican dancing and giant bubbles.

Talk about Shakespeare for all!  Even our recent winner of the ESU National Shakespeare Competition, Xavier Pacheco, took part.

Learn More about the Participants 

Read a Review 

Did you see the show?  Were you one of the participants? Tell us about it…

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