Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Stratford-upon-Avon and King Lear

In idyllic Stratford-upon-Avon (above), the 20 school teachers and 10 MFA students involved in the current phase of the OSU/RSC partnership got down to business today, working with RSC education staff Ginny Grainger and Rachel Gartside (right) to embrace principles at the core of their Stand Up for Shakespeare, which encourages young people to:
• Do it on your feet – explore plays actively and practically in the classroom, as actors do
• See it live – see live performances
• Start it earlier – introduce Shakespeare to younger age groups.

At the heart of the philosophy is the idea of creating "ensemble", whether it's in the classroom or among the actors in a play. The group of teachers and grad students is already is starting to create an ensemble among themselves, and today explored Shakespeare's play, King Lear, (below), which they will have the wonderful opportunity to see Wednesday evening when the RSC production is staged at Stratford's Courtyard Theatre.

They explored Lear through a variety of collaborative and shared activities including drama and movement, active listening and focusing on different points of view. Says Lesley Ferris, professor of theatre and co-director of the OSU/RSC program, "Ginny (below) and Rachel are so inventive and helped the group really get inside the 'skins' and heads of Lear's three daughters -- anchored with a 'set' of three costumed mannequins. Their expertise really brings out the actor in everyone, including all of the teachers."

The local BBC radio station is producing a feature spot about the OSU/RSC program and the week-long experiences shared by the Ohio teachers and MFA students. They sent a reporter to the training center Tuesday to talk to participants and leaders, including Metro High School teacher Kim Swensen (below).

Karen Bell (below) also talked with the reporter, as did RSC leader Rob Elkington and teacher Derek Hinkle.

On Monday evening the OSU group met up with a number of Royal Shakespeare Company leaders at the Dirty Duck, a Stratford landmark near the theatre. Welcoming all to the shared program was Vikki Heywood (below), executive director of the RSC.


Throughout the week, we’ll be talking with some of the 20 teachers and 10 MFA students who are involved in the second cohort in the OSU / RSC partnership program.

"This program already has changed my outlook on teaching literature -- showing how the kids can be active players and get in tune with the characters, and how their prior experiences today can help them relate to these timeless plays. I can't believe I'm saying this in June, but I'm already looking forward to getting back to school to try these activities. It's great to have the MFAs with us, to get their professional take on the scenes. They make you think in new ways."

Jean Reph, 8th grade literature and composition, Wedgewood Middle School

"I love learning through play, and I love it because it lets you explore different components of the play -- the point of view, the plot, character traits and character motives. The sessions here are so interactive, and the collaboration among participants is awesome. It feels like a really safe environment because we all trust each other. When I get back to our learners and use these activities, I can't even imagine what it will be like because it will be so powerful."

Faye Love, 5th grade reading/language arts and social studies, Linden STEM Academy

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