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Shakespeare and the College Student

Haviva Avirom Room: University 204B
Email: havirom@ups.edu

“In time we hate that which we often fear.”
-Antony and Cleopatra
“I do not much dislike the matter, but the manner of his speech”
-Julius Caesar

Course Description:
As one who absolutely adores Shakespeare, I have often been frustrated by teachers and student who have come through high school and college hating the Bard and feeling that the works of Shakespeare have been forced on them against their will. The aim of the project is to examine some of Shakespeare’s works, both from historical and modern perspectives, in order to synthesize strategies to make Shakespeare more accessible to my generation. Shakespeare’s plays contain many elements that make movies and other forms of entertainment popular now, so it seems odd that Shakespeare is considered “hard” or “frightening” or just plain “boring”. I will focus on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Henry V, The Tempest, Romeo & Juliet, A Comedy of Errors, and Taming of the Shrew, as well as a selection of the sonnets. By studying the historical contexts of each play, particularly audience responses, I hope to be able to find parallels and points of interest that will help modern students achieve a crack into the worlds of the plays. I also intend to look at modern advertising and popular culture, to compare what is effective and trendy now with the material found in Shakespeare. I want to look at the ideas we expect in commercials and television, sex, drama, angst, violence, wealth, and power, and how they apply to the Renaissance works of Shakespeare. I will be watching filmed versions of the plays to see how Shakespeare is translated to film, in the hopes that it will appeal to a modern audience. In the seventh week, I intend to do a film series of the Kenneth Branagh Shakespeare films, since Branagh is the most prolific and famous director currently translating the Bard to film. I will also talk to professors in the Education program about how they might approach talking to their future teachers about teaching Shakespeare. I intend to create concepts, or conceits, for productions of each play, such as a modern business version of Midsummer and a version of Henry V that uses elements of current popular video game strategies. These will include fully fleshed-out costume, set, light, and sound concepts and information that could be used for program notes and lobby displays, as well as the line cuts and changes that would be necessary to produce each concept. I will do readings of the plays and sonnets with a group of college students to see what parts of the plays appealed to them and to find out what they found difficult to understand. This project deeply engages in a discussion of the role of dramaturg in community outreach and how the role of dramaturg in the academic sphere facilitates discussion.

 To understand the reasons behind college students’ feelings about Shakespeare
 To share the virtues and drawbacks of Shakespeare with my peers
 To assess the potential for Shakespeare as a vital part of the theatrical and academic lives of students now
 To examine the connections between modern and Renaissance entertainments
 To enhance my knowledge and understanding of the role of the dramaturg in working with a community toward accepting and becoming enthusiastic about a text

As the theatre department begins our “Three by Bill” series, we must be very aware of the biases that high school and college students bear towards Shakespeare. I hope that my work will allow us to reach out into the community and draw in the audience who should be our biggest group of attendees.
This project will address certain specific questions:
 Why do high school and college students find Shakespeare unapproachable?
 How are Shakespeare’s plays like what we expect out of entertainment today and how are they different?
 What would make Shakespeare accessible to modern audiences?
 How (if at all) would these plays need to be adapted in order to be socially/politically relevant, while maintaining their original authenticity?
 What is the role of dramaturg in reaching out to audiences and interacting with them?
 Does teaching a script as Literature diffuse some of the power and impact of the script?
 Can Shakespeare be fun and unpretentious, without losing its power and language?
Basically, I hope to break through the prejudices many of my peers share about Shakespeare and his works, so that people will enjoy working with Shakespearean texts, both in and out of the academic sphere.

Requirements and Grading:
As an independent study, this project will be graded through bimonthly progress reports to the attending professor, as well as a series of papers and projects, including:
 A three to four page concept paper and supporting materials for each play covered
 A one page report on each group reading, including comments made by participants
 A survey of both Theatre and non-Theatre students, enquiring about their experiences and feelings about Shakespeare, leading to interviews and close work with some students who are uncomfortable with Shakespeare.
 Interviews with the professors who teach Shakespeare plays as a part of their curriculum about their approaches to Shakespeare (including, but not limited to, the professors of ENG 210, ENG221, ENG255, ENG351, HUM121, THTR371, THTR310, THTR/ENG476): Jacalyn Royce, Geoff Proehl, Michael Curley, Peter Greenfield, Florence Sandler, Denise Despres, Keith Ward, Christine Kline, Julian Edgoose, Robert Garratt, David Lupher, Marilyn Bennett
 A paper (3-5 pages) on advertising techniques used to market to the young adult market and their application to Shakespeare.
 A paper (3-5 pages) on teaching styles used in middle school and high school to teach Shakespeare.
 A final paper (12+ pages) making conclusions about the material gathered.

Readings (List to be expanded as necessary):
Shakespeare, William. Romeo & Juliet (Arden)
Shakespeare, William. Taming of the Shrew (Arden)
Shakespeare, William. Henry V (Arden)
Shakespeare, William. Comedy of Errors (Arden)
Shakespeare, William. The Tempest (Arden)
Shakespeare, William. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Arden)
Shakespeare, William. Complete Works (Folio Edition)
Shakespeare, William. Sonnets
Ferber, Michael. A Dictionary of Literary Symbols
Gurr, Andrew. The Shakespeare Company, 1594-1642
Gurr, Andrew. The Shakespearean Stage, 1574-1642
Wells, Stanley. Looking for Sex in Shakespeare
Harris, Jonathan Gil. Staged Properties in Early Modern English Drama
Mobley, Jonnie P. Romeo & Juliet (Access to Shakespeare)
Mobley, Jonnie P. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Access to Shakespeare)
Rodenberg, Patsy. The Actor Speaks
Film List:
Shakespeare: The Animated Tales (Film)
Romeo & Juliet (Zeffirelli)
Romeo & Juliet (Luhrmann)
Shakespeare in Love (Madden)
Taming of the Shrew (ACT)
Taming of the Shrew (Zeffirelli)
10 Things I Hate About You (Junger)
Henry V (Branagh)
Henry V (Olivier)
Love’s Labour’s Lost (Branagh)
Hamlet (Branagh)
A Midwinter’s Tale (Branagh)
Much Ado About Nothing (Branagh)
Othello (Parker)
A Comedy of Errors (Swenda)
Boys from Syracuse (Sutherland)
The Tempest (Schaefer)
The Tempest (Bender)
Prospero’s Books (Greenaway)
Forbidden Planet (Wilcox)
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Hoffman)
Children’s Midsummer Night’s Dream (Edzard)
Midsummer (Kerwin)
RSC Versions of:
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
The Tempest
Romeo & Juliet
Henry V
Comedy of Errors
Taming of the Shrew

General Project Policies:

 All project deadlines are soft with in the period allotted for the given play.
 This is a highly collaborative project and should be treated as such. Discussion, argument, and conversation are expected and encouraged.
 This project requires analysis, tact, research, conversation, organization, and style. All these things will be expected whenever working on the project.
 Websites are acceptable as source documents; however, information from the Internet should not be taken as gospel.
 Cheating is in no way acceptable and any instances of cheating will be dealt with harshly.

Assignment Guidelines:

Concept Papers:
Each concept paper should focus on an idea for the show that would make it more approachable to a young adult audience. Papers should be three to five pages in length and also include any subsidiary materials (images, music, suggested line cuts, etc) that might prove useful.
Survey/Student Interviews:
The survey will ask students about their past experience with Shakespeare, as well as their opinions on the Shakespeare work they have participated in and seen produced. This will lead to interviews with some students who claim a negative attitude toward Shakespeare.
Group Readings:
Each play covered, as well as the sonnets, will receive a round table style reading with a group of students. At the beginning of each reading, participants will be asked about prior experiences with the play. At the conclusion, all participants will be asked about how their opinions may have changed and what influences their opinions of the given play. Of particular emphasis will be the difference between reading Shakespeare internally and speaking the text. At the close of each reading, responses will be tabulated and translated into insights and observations.
Advertising Paper:
The purpose of the advertising paper is to look into the marketing strategies used to appeal to high school and college students and to apply them to Shakespeare plays. The paper should be three to five pages in length and draw strong parallels between modern advertising campaigns and Shakespeare plays.
Professor Interviews:
Professors who teach Shakespeare will be asked about their experiences working with Shakespeare and the strategies they employ to excite and engage students. Interviews will be summarized and commented on as they occur.
Teaching Styles Paper:
The teaching styles paper is a logical outgrowth of the professor interviews. After determining current teaching methods for Shakespeare, this paper will assess their similarities and differences, as well offering possible solutions to the challenges that arise from teaching Shakespeare.

Course Schedule:

Week 1 (Jan. 17-20):
Romeo & Juliet
R&J Translation
Watch Zeffirelli and Luhrmann movies and Shakespeare in Love

Week 2 (Jan. 23-27):
Romeo & Juliet
R&J Concept due

Week 3 (Jan. 30-Feb. 3):
Taming of the Shrew
Student Interviews
Watch ACT and Richard Burton movies and 10 Things I Hate About You

Week 4 (Feb. 6- 10):
Taming of the Shrew
Taming of the Shrew Concept due

Week 5 (Feb. 13-17):
Henry V
Advertising Paper due
Watch Branagh and Olivier movies

Week 6 (Feb. 20-24):
Henry V
Henry V Concept due

Week 7 (Feb. 27-Mar. 3):
Professor Interviews
Watch Love’s Labour’s Lost, Hamlet (Branagh), Much Ado About Nothing, Othello, and A Midwinter’s Tale

Week 8 (Mar. 6-10):
Comedy of Errors
Teaching Styles Paper due
Watch RSC and Swenda movies

Spring Break

Week 9 (Mar. 20-24):
Comedy of Errors
Comedy of Errors Concept due

Week 10 (Mar. 27-31):

Week 11 (Apr. 3-7):
The Tempest
Watch Schaefer and Bender movies, Prospero’s Books, Forbidden Planet

Week 12 (Apr. 10-14):
The Tempest
Tempest Concept due

Week 13 (Apr. 17-21):
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Midsummer Translation
Watch Hoffman, RSC, Children’s Midsummer, and Kerwin movies

Week 14 (Apr. 24-28):
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Midsummer Concept due

Week 15 (May 1-3):
Final Paper due


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Projects in Dramaturgy and Shakespeare

February 2008

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