Here is a brief introduction to the following page of actual downloadble edited scenes. 

Theatre in language teaching.

 For 32 years we have run a summer language course for 11-17 year oldsOne of the important elements to our teaching is "theatre", in its larger sense. A lot of our languaged activities have an acting element and as you will see on this site, there is a long section of "Grammar plays". Obviously the fluency of acted, learnt parts around a single grammar area is a great support to "explanation" and the other lesson forms of activating the spoken language. (which is after all, the essence of language teaching, though most methods lack this 

Shakespeare too difficult? The language?

Education has been damned by what you could call "pink and fluffy" easy options, and so inevitably in England, the bleeding hearts have asked, "Is Shakespeare too difficult". "Should we give students translations into "modern" English". Clearly in that case it would no longer be Shakespeare, but the educators could cheatingly claim to be "doing Shakespeare"! (as if poetry were just exaggeration which needed unwrapping!).

Because I myself have such a love of Shakespeare, some 20 years ago we started including edited scenes from his plays in the "theatre" emphasis of the courses. These scenes and their preparation, often outside in Middlesmoor's beautiful surroundings constitutes some of my best memories of those summers, and I think also of the children.. Here for example is a comment taken from a letter of thanks that arrived 5 years later from one girl...."il monologo di Lady Macbeth! sembra stampato a fuoco nella mia mente!.. non riesco a liberarmene"! I have often been struck by the way Shakepeare's eloquence is perceptible to these foreign children, despite their "limited" English: Somehow the eloquence of the poetry catches them, and it is beautiful to see how these foreign children are able to taste Shakespeare in the mouth! (no translation necessary, though clearly help is needed with vocabulary, as in all language study

Recently I was invited to a Rome Liceo to prepare 6 scenes from Macbeth. We had one week to prepare to perform in front of a teachers' conference, and there were 6 hours of lessons available. Due to national "student occupation", we lost half our actors. However, the remaining girls, (yes where were the boys!) were fantastic and they too, clearly drank up Shakespeare's eloquence.

So to familiarise students with as it were the engine house of Shakespeare's eloquence there is here on the website a section on Metaphor. The Rome girls showed again that acting Shakespeare and not just studying it, is the path to a fuller appreciation, and admiration of Shakespeare. As we all know, learning a poem by heart means that we have it as our possession and we understand it fully

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Editing to suitable length

Obviously the editing of the scenes is important, because one cannot overload the students with too many lines to learn, since the who

le point is to get students to learn a part by heart in order to perform the scene. As with the Macbeth in

Rome you can pick a number of important scenes from a whole play and if necessary have a narrator to explain any jumps to the audience. As I found at Rome, finding a genuine audience puts students on their maximum commitment. Parents invited to a performance would be just as effective as my audience of teachers.

Although Camilla from Brescia once learnt 40 lines in an afternoon, most students feel comfortable with 20-25 lines, with 30 a limit. Sometimes it will be necessary to invent some stage "business" (happening) to disguise the changeover between a Macbeth 1, Macbeth 2 or even Macbeth 3 in a scene. As with the girls in Rome forced by lack of boys to be Macbeth, plentiful eye liner can make a same design beard. Some of the girls were especially good at comically imitating male swa

Teachers' lack of confidence with pronunciation.

At Rome I did the following, which seemed to work very well. I recorded with a video camera myself reading the parts while the camera moved down the text. Then I made DVD copies for all the actors.This way, the students had the confidence that they were learning the part and knowing how to pronounce it. All teachers should be able to find some wandering English speaker who could do something similar. Obviously students need to also know the full meaning of the text, which is why here on the website I have given Italian vocabulary on the right hand side. There is a good Garzanti CD with testo a fronte for Italians. It exists too for German speakers.

Costume.

It is worth getting the actors to use costume. Black dustbin liners are very useful for making Renaissance clothes. Silver and gold pens can be used to decorate the black plastic. White "scotch" tape can be stuck on also as ornament which can then itself be coloured with felt pens. Silver and gold spray are also effective decoration on these plastic bin liners. Rolls of Christmas ribbon decoration are useful too. At Rome, the students made such quick costumes within the week.  Simple lengths of cloth can be made to look like tunics or jackets by using belts or cord to pull them in at the waist.  Cardboard can make effective hats. Wool tights look like renaissance leggings. Swords can be made out of ply wood using a handheld jigsaw.

Acting.

 It is important that the actors are helped in stage position and movement. Make them repeat certain lines with variant stage movements (a hidden form of drilling the speaking of the part). Emphasise that slow speaking is effective with poetry, and especially with Shakespeare's intricate language. When they know the lines there is a tendency to gabble.

Remember, any English learnt by heart, and declaimed, is better than any amount of silent reading, ( areason by the way of making all reading "aloud". There is something beautiful in the sight of a whole class learning their parts by all together in lower voice repeating Shakespeare! It could be any text. It's not so much "communication" (sacred term!) that is important but uttering, iterating, forming words with the mouth, and then eventually that focused speaking called "chunking"!

 

See www.middlesmoor.com   VIDEOS …..Shakespeare