Skip to comments.Learning and Performing Shakespeare
Posted on 02/08/2011 3:06:17 PM PST by nickcarraway
Reading lists for middle school and high school students routinely include Shakespearean plays, but most teens find themselves struggling to translate the plays into language they can understand.
However, from day one back in October, Mrs. Mary Raithel assured the St. Alphonsus Liguori middle school students that they would not have to read Macbeth. They would be learning by performing Macbeth. And so they did, as the entire St. Alphonsus Middle School staged their outstanding performances of Scenes from Macbeth on Wednesday, January 26, for an audience of nearly 150 proud parents, family members and guests. Eight scenes from this Shakespearean tragedy of power lust, vengeance and destruction were analyzed, researched and staged by teams of sixth, seventh and eighth grade students as a weekly part of their language arts and literature classes. The students understood the actions and the feelings of the scenes, then later came to understand the dialog and wording.
School volunteer Mary Raithel dutifully drove down to Prospect Heights each Thursday from her home in Crystal Lake to collaborate with English teachers Marian Fricano and Judy Agoston, and to meet with the student teams studying and preparing their scenes. Along the way, Mrs. Raithel provided background lessons on the history of Elizabethan times, value lessons in the moral issues of this monumental Shakespearean work, as well as dramatic and theatrical instruction that enabled the students to present their scenes.
From directing to costuming to tech planning, and even sword fight choreography, each team divided up the roles and went through the process of preparing select scenes from the Scottish play, as it is called by many superstitious Shakespearean professionals who fear saying the word Macbeth will jinx their production. Teams chose unique settings for their scenes where issues of power, jealousy, fate, and vengeance might be encountered, even in modern times. St. Alphonsus students depicted their scenes to reflect bullying in school, political campaigns, military dictatorships, and even Wall Street and the labor struggles of the Great Depression.
Mrs. Raithel, herself, developed a strong love for the works of Shakespeare, not only by reading them in her English classes back at Resurrection High School in Chicago, but instead, by attending performances of these classic tales at the Stratford Festival in Canada each year with her family. These theatrical experiences were so powerful that, even though Mrs. Raithel took a job outside of teaching, she continues to share her love of Shakespeare as a volunteer with young teens at various city and suburban schools including Immanuel Lutheran in Crystal Lake and St. Matthias in Chicago as well as at St. Alphonsus.
As a follow-up to the Shakespeare project St. Al students will participate in an in-house fieldtrip featuring workshops presented by professionals from the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, and will also have an opportunity to attend a live performance of Macbeth at Navy Pier.
No doubt, the St. Alphonsus student performers will remember these experiences, and will continue to grow in their appreciation of the timeless themes of classical literature that they first encountered by taking on these Shakespearean roles and the theatrical production responsibilities. Who knows? Some of these students might actually seek careers in theater, yet many will grow to appreciate the world of theater available in amateur and professional productions around the community. Volunteer Mary Raithel may just have inspired their interest and appreciation for the performing arts.
I don't htink you have to change Shakespeare's language. If you reach the kids the right way, they will appreciate his mad skillz.
When I was a sophomore in high school in farming country (during the dark ages), our English teacher introduced us to Romeo and Juliet. Too bad more teachers don’t present the classics in such a way that students learn to understand, enjoy and appreciate them. This lady needs to be honored for her dedication. These students were very lucky indeed.
There are some performances where the language is easy to understand, because of the expression and parsing of the actors.
And then there are the pompous performances, all i-AMB pen-TAM-e-TER.
And the run-the-other-way performances, no we’re not reading any poetry here.
Watching the 1968 Zeffirelli version of Romeo and Juliet, starring two gorgeous and extremely talented teenagers, will teach today’s teenagers that the language of Shakespeare is ageless, just like his themes. Two minutes after the movie starts, the viewer is no longer aware that he’s listening to sixteenth-century English, because everything is completely clear. And everybody is pretty much in tears at the end. It really gets kids over thinking that the language is inaccessible. That’s what my teachers did for me, and it worked. My boy is now studying Macbeth and I’m scratching around for a creepy version of it for him to watch online.
Not everyone understands Klingon
Correct! That's why I call Billy Shakespizzle "The Hard Bard".
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
If you can't appreciate the pure beauty of the violin after hearing this, something's wrong with your ears.
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