I taught my first day of Shakespeare camp today. My first real day, anyway, after going to the auditions and a read through.
It's more difficult to teach high schoolers because (while most are wonderful) there are always a couple who want to hear themselves talk but don't listen. So this couple just says off the wall things and then I have to try to get them back on track without losing everyone else. Most, though, are really fun, and since I've taught for the program for a couple years now, they've heard some of the spiel before, and know how to do their part. They have a good sense of how to read verse, and know to care about what they're saying.
In previous years, I've taught an hour or so each day for the first week, but this year the director has changed it up, so I'm teaching an hour and a half here and there for both weeks. I'm not getting the sense of continuity, but maybe it will work better for what the students need for this production.
I'm a bit weirded out trying to explain concepts from Christianity. Usually it's no big deal, but there are some homeschooled students who are being homeschooled in pretty overtly evangelical Christian programs. I don't want to step on their toes about stuff, but early modern ideas might be different, and are important to understand, at any rate. So some of these kids know about Golgotha and such, but others don't at all, which makes sense to me (I have to look it up).
The other weirdness is that we're doing this later than we've done it before, so it will run close to the beginning of the new academic year, and it's already feeling crowded to me.
Still and all, there's something incredibly cool about talking Shakespeare with students who are working on acting in a play. They're engaged, and really thinking about the play (mostly), and trying to figure out how to do what's to be done. And it's Shakespeare, and working closely with a production reminds me powerfully of just what an amazing practical playwright the guy was. It's like his plays feel inevitable, like every line pretty much has to be where it is for things to come together, but each is also fresh and unexpected in a way.
For example, we talked about Macbeth and Banquo's first entrance together. We've heard all about Macbeth before, what a hero he is and all, but we don't know who these guys entering are, and while Macbeth gets a toss off line about the weather, Banquo starts talking to the witches. So you have to think, for just a moment (if you've don't know the play already), that the important guy is the one who's speaking lots. And then it's not. Even in that little structural moment, you get a sense of the confusion of doubling that's so important in the play. We get all the great speeches, all the big stuff, but Shakespeare also manages the little moments to put things together.
How do you explain the Christianity? Do you find it helpful to start off before the first discussion by just saying, "Look, this may not be what you understand to be true about Christianity, but you're pretending to be someone else, and you need to understand where they come from", or is that presumptuous somehow? I never know how to talk to people about sensitive subjects; I'm just wondering if you have a sort of set piece, or if you feel your way every time.ReplyDelete