Monday, July 2, 2012

TSI Day 1: Caesar Salad and Picturing Shakespeare

Today was our first institute day at the Folger.  It was exhilarating and exhausting!

Stephen Booth Lecture

Our first order of business was to meet in the gorgeous Folger theater which is a amalgam of several theaters from Shakespeare's time (not a replica of the Globe as some think).  Gail Paster delivered our "Steven Booth" lecture.  Stephen was one of the first TSI participants and is a fantastic Shakespeare scholar.  More on him here:

Gail's lecture was entitled, "Shylock, Othello and the Theatrical Coding of Difference:  Picturing Shakespeare at the Folger."  Gail had lots of slides of actors throughout the ages in their costumes for Othello and Shylock.  They are commonly visualized onstage as the "other."  Gail believes that costumes, hair, makeup, and props all extra-textually show the character.  We were amazed at the different images of Othello and Shylock:  from comedic to tragic.  She discussed the use of darkened skin tone to show Shylock and the lighter-black skin tone to show Othello at times.

So here is the great thing:  all of these images are available in the Folger database!  So, what a great way to show the nuances of MoV and Othello by showing how different actors portrayed the characters.  We are sometimes plagued with student stereotyping of these characters. I will give directions later on this month on how to access the info on the Folger databases.

Fun note:  Actors playing Othello sometimes looked pretty "metrosexual" in their costuming.  I kept thinking, "I think Desdemona can take him!"

Introduction to Curriculum and Caesar Salad Activity:

After lunch, Mike LoMonico lead us in a introductory curriculum workshop.  We each needed to answer "who taught you to teach Shakespeare."  We had lots of laughs and apparently almost all of us HATE Julius Caesar! (therapy needed).  We discussed that there is no Methods course for Teaching Shakespeare except at a handful of colleges.  Why?

After our discussion, we did a little activity that would help to introduce kids to any of your plays.  You need a scene that involves about 5 actors.  It needs to have minimal difficult vocab, lots of implied action, and short lines.  (first scene in R&J, Mechanicals in MSND, etc.)  We used Act III, sc iii from Julius Caesar where Cinna is going to Caesar's funeral and is met by several angry citizens.

Caesar Salad (my name for this)

1.  Have students in groups of 6.  Scenes should fit on one page and have 5 actors--we want them to invent what to do with the extra.

2.  Each group is to assign parts and block the scene.  We did a group read and did basic blocking for about 10 minutes.

3.  Give each group a list of things to SPICE up the scene such as:  a tableaux, 10 seconds of silence, a modern prop, a whisper, an unexpected entrance or exit.  Each group tries to include as many of the spices as possible.  We had another 5-7 minutes to re-block, etc.

4.  Perform.

This is terrific for introducing the language, stage directions, voice, infection, and movement!  It will get kids excited about the play they will read.  You can work on inference skills and prediction as well.

Performance Workshop

After TEA (delicious!) we had our first performance workshop with Caleen and Michael.  We did several trust activities (leading your partner blind) and lots of acting warm-ups.  Here are a couple of good ideas from the workshop:

1.  If you do the trust walk exercise, afterwards debrief with each student sharing.  Quickly, they comment on "I learned", "I noticed", and "I resented".  I like the addition of the last one because students can get out their frustration in a safe way.

2.  If you do the name game where everyone says their name and an alliterative adjective (giggling Greta), here are some additions.  Students first say their name and adjective.  They must have a movement associated with the adjective (great for learning vocab!).  After the initial introduction, students then add to their adjective with an action and a location.  They must have a movement for each of these as well.  Example:  giggling Greta golfing in a gondola.  Great icebreaker, class building and team building activity.


After dinner, we had a great albeit HOT and SWEATY bus tour of DC.  I was impressed with the beauty of the FDR memorial. 

So, time to tuck myself into this Spartan single bed and get some shut-eye!


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