Lately, I've been involved in a number of discussions having to do with Education and Shakespeare over at shakespearegeek's blog. Duane has brought up some interesting points and posed what I think are some important questions relating to how we teach Shakespeare and the effects those methods might have on our perception of his work.
In my experience, I've seen that it's very easy to turn someone off to his work. That was, in fact, my own feeling toward Shakespeare at my initial exposure to his plays. But this type of thing doesn't just happen in school, where many times the academics are stressed over the actual performance of the plays. It can also happen from seeing a "not so good" production--or two or three.
As a resident Shakespeare specialist, director, and acting instructor, I've taught Shakespeare over a broad spectrum, from elementary students all the way to professionals, and everyone in between. As a teacher, the first question I'm interested in asking any prospective student (or anyone in general) has to do with exactly what has happened so far in their exposure to Shakespeare. Only then can I make an assessment and develop a focus on how I might formulate my own teaching and/or directing approach with any particular individual or group. I have certain foundational elements in what and how I teach, but I generally devise components to specifically target aspects related to experience.
For instance, I'm scheduled to soon begin teaching acting techniques for an established Shakespeare production company. Although some of the very same basic elements and components I use to teach every level of student will be included, this will, of course, be a somewhat different approach than one I'd use for elementary students. BUT, in the beginning, I'll be asking these more experienced students some of the very same questions.
In developing teaching techniques any and all information is important, so this isn't just a point of interest, it's actually a serious research question as well. So, you'd actually be helping me a great deal with any input and it would be much appreciated.
The questions are:
*How much exposure to Shakespeare in any form have you had? (school, theatre, movies, tv).
*How and when did it start?
*Who was responsible for your first exposure to Shakespeare?
*If you've seen performances early on in your Shakespeare experience, when and where did you see them, who was performing, what was it like, what did it make you feel and/or think? JM