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.
“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!
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!