Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Homeschool Shakespeare

Our homeschool group just finished up a series of "playshops" that I was able to organize with The Tennessee Shakespeare Company here in town.  Over the course of the 5 sessions we had 27 homeschoolers ages 12-18 participate.  I managed to take a few pictures through the door at the last session -- no easy task, as this session focused on Elizabethan Dance, and the participants were VERY active!
Other sessions focused on Shakespeare's text, how to feed and be fed lines so that the speech lives in you and you don't have to memorize, Elizabethan clowns and the role of the clown in Shakespeare, and Stage Combat.

Every session was highly interactive and experiential.  About half the group also met about 4 times to read through Macbeth round robin style, and attended the Tennessee Shakespeare Company's production of Macbeth, which was performed in an outdoor amphitheater at a wooded park in October.

The "Playshops" were such a hit that we are planning for 10 additional sessions for January-March.

They have fit in well with how our family approaches Shakespeare -- first, as great stories and plays that are spoken and performed, and only later as literature, with analysis of character and theme.  My girls started with watching the Kenneth Branagh/Emma Thompson video of Much Ado About Nothing when they were quite young -- around 9 or so.  They would watch in increments, and often watch favorite scenes over and over and over.  Then we would read a summary in story form, such as from "Shakespeare Stories" by Leon Garfield, or the "comic book" style books of Marcia Williams.  When they were somewhat familiar with the story, we would meet with other families take turns reading from the play.  In the meantime we would read historical novels that focused on Shakespeare or Elizabethan culture, like "The Shakespeare Stealer" trilogy of books.  By the time my girls have become high school age, they are familiar with many of the plays, the language, and the customs of the era and have no fear of Shakespeare and are not intimidated at all.

Now that the Tennessee Shakespeare Company has established itself in our city, we make a point to find out what plays they will be performing  for their fall and spring shows and focus on those plays.  The kids  have grown up with Shakespeare being accessible and not at all scary or "highbrow".  And, honestly -- the language when spoken aloud is very similar to "country" and Appalachian speech patterns, not so very unfamiliar here in the south.  TSC will be performing "The Tempest" in April, so in addition to the workshops, we will probably get a group up to do a read through of the play at some point.

1 comment:

WoodChopper said...
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