A Teacher’s-Eye View: Albiani Middle School

This month we’ll begin our 26th school year of Shakespeare on Tour, packing Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors into a van that will travel about 10,000 miles across California before April. In celebration of our tour program, we’ve asked teachers at a couple of our long-time school partners to explain how watching a Shakespeare on Tour performance can impact their students.

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Katherine L. Albiani Middle School: kams.egusd.net

“But what a point, my lord, your falcon made,
And what a pitch she flew above the rest!”

~ William Shakespeare, Henry VI Part 2

First up, we talked with the English Honors teachers at Albiani Middle School in Elk Grove, CA, home of the Albiani Falcons. Seventh grade English Honors students at Albiani read and study A Midsummer Night’s Dream, while eighth grade students read and study Twelfth Night. Their strong team of teachers includes Shannon Richardson, Michelle Campbell, Megan Grigsby, Kate Malone, and Jen Moreno. Michelle and Kate have been teaching at Albiani for 14 years, Shannon for 13 years, Megan Grigsby for 12 years, and Jen for 4 years.

Here’s what these fierce educators had to say about Shakespeare on Tour.

What impact have you seen SOT performances have on your students?

Students have a better understanding of the plays when they watch them.  They also are less fearful of learning about Shakespeare and his works when they’ve watched a performance, especially a comedy.  The Tour has also had a positive impact on students participating in our Shakespeare in the Quad, which is one of our spring theatre productions.

Can you remember any moments when you saw students become fully immersed in an SOT performance?

The kissing and fighting scenes are fun for the students. Last year, during the third or fourth kiss, a student yelled out, “Not again!” That was funny. And the fight scenes bring out a lot of energy and excitement from the students; they are definitely entertained.

Also, they enjoy when their fellow classmates get to be part of the performance, as well as participating in the Q&A sessions at the end. And the after school workshops have been terrific!

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Katherine L. Albiani Middle School: kams.egusd.net

How does seeing the play connect to your students’ overall education experience? 

Watching live theatre is an important part of education. Students gain compassion and empathy when they make a connection to the characters through a live performance.  Plays are an experience! Seeing Shakespeare’s plays remind students that his works are still relevant and that they were meant to be performed. Students are much less apprehensive to approach Shakespeare and more likely to participate in our classroom activities after seeing a performance. They feel energized and ready to tackle the rich text when they know they, too, can perform the scenes in class.

What do you all enjoy about teaching Shakespeare? 

We love how the 400 year old content is still relevant. Students feel smart and powerful when they get it. The themes, ideas, and characters in Shakespeare’s works are still applicable to our students and other works that we study. It always fascinates them how a work of literature so old can connect to their lives. And, it’s wonderful when we open students’ eyes to something so “foreign” yet still so significant. Tying Shakespeare to current times is powerful and students walk away with not only the feeling of accomplishment, but also having fun while reading something that may have been daunting at first.

A thousand thanks to Shannon, Michelle, Megan, Kate, and Jen for your hard work, your dedication to your students. We appreciate your passion for Shakespeare, and we’re honored to support your students’ education with Shakespeare on Tour!  

* The interview responses above have been edited for clarity and length.
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Midsummer Library Talk

We perform and present in libraries throughout the Bay Area, and it’s part of the joy of working in a Shakespeare theater. In this talk, director Rebecca Ennals shares a personal story about how she first encountered A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

She puts it well in her program note:
“It’s my third time directing this play – a play that launched both my love of Shakespeare and my career in the theatre when I first saw it in elementary school. Back then it was the Fairies that captured me. In high school it was the Mechanicals, who I rediscovered alongside Monty Python and Spinal Tap. In my 20s it was the Lovers, as forlorn and reckless as I often was in love. And now? I’m back with the Fairies, but with a new interest in Titania’s role as adoptive mother to the Changeling boy, now that I am a mother of two boys.”

6 Facts about Mendelssohn and His Wedding March

by Kalina Ko, Literary Intern

Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream inspired many different artists. Felix Mendelssohn, a German composer, was one of those artists. One Mendelssohn’s most famous pieces of music is his Wedding March, which was inspired by a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that he saw. Below are some facts about Mendelssohn and his Wedding March.

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You can listen to one performance of his wedding march here:

 

Lord, What Fools These Mortals Be! — A Dramaturgical Talk

by Kalina Ko, Literary Intern

On June 29, I gave a dramaturgical talk before our invited dress rehearsal. The talk focused on salient aspects of our production that had come up during rehearsal and that I felt were interesting and relevant to our modern day life. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to talk with the cast more and experience the show a few more times. I’ve been able to reflect further on the themes featured in the play. The following is an updated and modified version of the dramaturgical talk I gave on June 29. Continue reading

Picnics!

We love seeing picnics in the park, even if all you do is grab some sammiches or a pizza on your way in. There’s nothing like good food and good friends as a prelude to some outdoor Shakespeare. We walk nimbly and carefully through the crowd to snap these pics, and even though we haven’t yet seen a peanut butter and jelly sammich or some fish sticks, we’re still in admiration of the spread you put on.

Shakespeare on the Big Screen

by Kalina Ko, Literary Intern

This summer, a new film adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream directed by Casey Wilder Mott will be available to watch in cinemas. Mott has adapted the play to take place in modern day Hollywood rather than ancient Athens. The re-imagination of the play capitalizes on the reputation of Hollywood as a place where magic and reality meet. Continue reading