Shakespeare Week Is Coming at Outschool.com

Outschool.com will be honoring the contributions of Shakespeare during the very first Shakespeare Week on March 21-27th.

I’m honored to take part in this celebration, and I’m offering several aclasses which relate to Shakespeare in an engaging way. Here’s the schedule below:

If you want to sign up for one of my classes, please visit my Outschool page:

https://outschool.com/teachers/The-Shakespearean-Student

https://outschool.com/teachers/The-Shakespearean-Student

Hope to see you during Shakespeare Week!

New Acting Course for Young Actors Starting September 12th, 2021.

Trailer for my 2021 Acting course via Outschool.com

I’ve been working on a remote learning class for Outschool.com where I take some of the audition advice I wrote in Creating A Character: Macbeth, and some of the other acting posts I’ve published over the years. This will be a weekly virtual acting course for kids ages 13-18, starting September 12th at 10AM EST.

This class will outline the tools and techniques of Shakespearean acting such as projection, articulation, and imagination. Each We’ll also go over Shakespeare’s own advice on acting in his play “Hamlet: Prince of Denmark.” The course will culminate with the students choosing their own Shakespearean monologues and scenes, which they can use going forward in auditions, school plays, and classes.

The best thing about the course is that each week builds on the previous week’s experience, but you don’t need to go to all of them. I’ll be flexible and work with the student’s schedule so everyone gets as much out of the class as possible.

If you’re interested in signing up, go to Outschool.com. If you have any questions, email me by clicking here:

Hope to see you online soon!

Summer Shakespeare Academy!

I’m working this summer with the good people at Outschool, an online learning platform for kids ages 3-18. I’m designing a series of Shakespeare classes that you can sign up for. We’ll be doing acting exercises, reading Shakespeare’s text, and making Shakespeare props Cost is $3 per child.

The course is ala carte, that is, you can sign up for as many courses as you like. Each course builds on the last one, but you don’t have to have taken the previous ones to enjoy any one particular course Let me know in the comments which class(es) you are interested in, and/or what suggestions you might have. I can’t wait to hear what you think about these summer Shakespeare courses, and I hope to see you online soon!

1. Introduction to Shakespeare- (enrollment here: https://outschool.com/classes/introduction-to-shakespeare-or-how-i-learned-to-love-the-bard-UoHH5fes?sectionUid=973060db-f857-461a-a23a-f1476203a544&showDetails=true) We’ll talk about why Shakespeare is so famous and learn about his life and career. Then we’ll do some fun quizzes that you can earn prizes based on how well you pay attention!
2. How to write ✍ like Shakespeare (Enrollment here: https://outschool.com/classes/how-to-write-like-shakespeare-0HuPq1Cg?sectionUid=4243af25-ba41-4724-82a2-61bd7c7d862e&showDetails=true) Have you ever wanted to woo your sweetheart or write the next bestselling play? Well, this course will cover the secrets of Shakespeare’s writing. We’ll cover how to write romantic poems, the structure of Shakespeare’s plays, and you’ll get to write your own Shakespearean speeches!
3. Intro to Shakespearean acting Practical tips and tricks for your next Shakespeare audition.
4. Shakespeare’s villains
We’ll look at the darkest and creepiest Shakespearean characters and see why they still fascinate us today!
5. The Violent Rhetoric Of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (Registration Here: https://outschool.com/classes/the-violent-rhetoric-of-julius-caesar-fkMLbAtA?sectionUid=1f9220cd-8c28-438d-9799-8479494353a4&showDetails=true#usMaRDyJ13) In this one-time course, students will analyze the rhetoric and persuasive power in two speeches from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”
6. Intro to Romeo and Juliet – Get a leg up on your next English class with this fun, frenetic look through the characters, themes, and story of Shakespeare’s most popular, and most-taught play.
7. Basics Of Stage Combat (Registration here: https://outschool.com/classes/1120ada2-047d-4b0f-84f6-5eb4b0f7dc66/schedule#usMaRDyJ13 I’ll teach the kids about Elizabethan street fighting, and the basics of stage combat.
8. The Balcony Scene of Romeo and Juliet– It’s been called the greatest love scene of all time, but why? I’ll explain the imagery, the poetic language, and give you a chance to make your own love poetry!
9. Insults and Shakespeare You’ll craft your own Shakespeare insults and engage in a (respectful), beat down with your classmates! Along the way, we’ll talk about how insults escalate to violence in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
10. The Iconic imagery of Romeo and Juliet We’ll look at some beautiful paintings, songs, and other works of art that build on Shakespeare’s poetic imagery.
11. Romeo and Juliet and pedagogy Shakespeare is uniquely challenging to get kids to engage with. I’ll give you some of my resources, games, and activities to help you delve into the play in your next class.

If you like these courses, let me know by leaving a comment below. If you’re interested in signing up, visit my teacher profile page: https://outschool.com/teachers/The-Shakespearean-Student. New classes will be added every week, and I’ll work around your schedule when planning the dates and times. Hopefully this will be a great chance for me to share my expertise with a young group of future Shakespearean students!

Teaching Titus through creepy cooking

Titus Andronicus is one of the most bloody, disgusting plays in Shakespeare. As this infographic from the Royal Shakespeare Company shows, there are tons of deaths and some of them are even the result of cannibalism!

One way to capture the macabre nature of this play in the classroom, (which some scholars see as a horror comedy), is to characterize it through cooking, after all, revenge is a dish best served cold.

Me in costume as Titus Androgynous, a crazy cooking show host who butchers two people in the same manner as Titus

So here are some ghoulish gourmet dishes and revolting recipes that you can share with your students to help them get into this tragic tale of violence, revenge, and cooking:

Idea 1: recipe cards

Design a recipe card like the ones in cooking magazines based on Titus speech where he murders Chiron and Demetrius

Idea 2: Create a menu that summarizes the play:

Act I:

Starter: Caesar Salad, toad in the hole

As the play begins, Caesar has died and Saturnine wants to devour his father’s empire. Enjoy this light salad in anticipation of far more bloody feasts to come.https://youtu.be/UxZ5NOkRwj0

Act II Scene 3: Breakfast:

Lamb Benedict

Lamb Benedict recipe I found on Reddit

While on an early morning hunting trip, Bassianus is slaughtered like a lamb by his own nephews. Enjoy this sweet treachery with a golden egg in the hole.

Act II, Scene 4: Main course:

Roast venison with all the trimmings

“As the deer that hath some unrecuring wound.”

“She was washed and cut and trimmed.”

Titus compares his daughter to a deer or welkin, and in the play’s most barbaric scene, the emperor’s sons ravish her and cut out her tongue. They enjoy the cruel rape and mutilation just like two starving lions enjoying their prey.

Act V:

Just desserts: people pot pie.

“More stern and bloody than the centaur’s feast,” A truly unforgettable dessert for this feast of carnage. The cook, Titus, reinvents the term rich food by cooking two emperor’s sons into pies.

Served cold, like revenge!

“Set him breast deep in Earth and famish him.”

Idea 3: Real Titus foods inspired by my favorite Halloween diy recipes

1. Lavinia’s tongue and hands

• horrific Halloween punch with ice cold hand cubes: https://youtu.be/XLYwcX7Ud-E

• Bloody lady fingers https://pin.it/xbnfxcs4bxbhsq

2. Titus hand: Hot dog fingers for Titus’ hand.

https://pin.it/ofn6cotybnvn4n

Or this grisly appetizer: cheese hand in prosciutto

3.

People Pies:

There are many horrific pie recipes on the internet, but for a busy teacher on a budget, I’m adapting this one from the YouTube channel Threadbanger: https://youtu.be/E6U6xUl3A5M. Don’t show this video to your students because there’s far too much cursing. That said this recipe is very cheap and it’s easy. He used only store bought items and no fancy cooking techniques, which means if you choose to bake it as a classroom activity, even your students can help make it. Here are some tips from the video to get the most horrible ppeople pie you can make:

• Use red filling like cherry or strawberry for filling.

• Use excess dough for a nose.

• Cut out little pieces of apple to make teeth

• Cut holes for the eyes and mouth

• The bloodier, the better!

Bone appetit!

Which Shakespeare Edition is Right For You?

What’s the best Shakespeare edition to read? You may not know it, but all of Shakespeare’s plays are contained in just one little book that has been printed and re-printed for 400 years. Today you can find thousands of different versions of Shakespeare for your needs as a student, scholar, or just regular Shakespeare fan, and today I’m here to guide you through some of the most popular! Let’s take a look!

A Little Background:

Shakespeare's First Folio
The original printed edition of Shakespeare’s First Folio, 1623

During Shakespeare’s lifetime, he wrote his plays just for his company to perform. The scripts were distributed among the cast as little rolls of paper that had each actor’s part written on it (this is why an actor’s part is sometimes called his “role”). Sometimes the plays were published when the company wanted to make a little extra money, but they weren’t exactly best-sellers. After Shakespeare died, two actors from his company, John Hemmings and Henry Condell, decided to preserve Shakespeare’s work for all time, printing his plays in a beautiful book called Shakespeare’s First Folio in the year 1623. This book helped preserve 36 of Shakespeare’s plays, 17 of which were never printed before, and would have been lost forever if Hemmings and Condell hadn’t preserved them.

Today some purists say that the only way to read Shakespeare is by reading a facsimile of the First Folio, because it preserves Shakespeare’s original spelling, his stage directions, and the natural integrity of the verse form because of the way it’s printed on the page. To be honest, I see the merit in this, but only for actors and scholars who often need every clue in the text to inspire them to construct creative and inventive interpretations of Shakespeare’s work. However, for first time readers I recommend a modern edition, since the Folio has very few stage directions, and no standard spelling or punctuation, making it very hard to understand. Shakespeare is hard enough to read without love being spelled “loove” all the time.

imgres-1Shakespeare in modern type by Neil Freeman. These editions are the kind i urlmentioned earlier, the ones for Shakespeare Fundamentalists. These are the people who believe Shakespeare left clues for performance in every line, every punctuation mark, and every change in verse. I don’t dispute this view, but I also can’t fully support it because it encourages actors and directors to become slaves to iambic and to never deviate from the rigid construction of Shakespeare’s verse, even if they have a creative reason not to. Even classical musicians must be allowed some form of improvisation. Actors should have the same liberty to interpret the text as they see fit. You can rent or purchase individual versions of the Freeman Folio texts, or purchase the full version of the First Folio in modern type. For sample pages, click here: https://books.google.com/books?.

Editions of T
Editions of The Arden Shakespreare

The Arden Shakespeare– For over 100 years, this edition has been a favorite of scholars and actors alike. It focuses on the world of Shakespeare to help you understand the characters by detailing the interpretations directors have favored for the last 400 years. The Arden edition has excellent notes and is great for college students and honors high schoolers. http://www.bloomsbury.com/us/academic/academic-subjects/drama-and-performance-studies/the-arden-shakespeare/

The Norton Shakespeare

The Norton Shakespeare- This version is a more academic version with great notes by the venerated Robert Greenblatt of Harvard University. It focuses on the world of Shakespeare with notes about Elizabethan society, history, poetry, and mythology. I would recommend it for college students and adult readers.

Click here to sample some of this edition: https://books.google.com/books?id=2

Folger Shakespeare Library Edition of Hamlet
Folger Shakespeare Library Edition of Hamlet

The Folger Shakespeare- Edited by the premiere Shakespeare scholarship institution in America: The Folger Shakespeare Libary, this version has very clear and simple explanations for what the characters are saying, and has lots of pictures and notes. This version is excellent for high schoolers and is one of the standards in most school districts. Click here to sample some of their work. Be sure to also check out the Folger’s website! http://www.folger.edu/

Penguin Shakespeare: The Winter's Tale
Penguin Shakespeare: The Winter’s Tale

The Penguin Shakespeare– this is probably the cheapest version of Shakespeare. It has a glossary and a few notes, but not as many pictures and clever editor’s notes as the Folger. http://www.amazon.com/s/?ie=UTF8&keywords=shakespeare+penguin+books&tag=googhydr-

No Fear Shakespeare: Macbeth
No Fear Shakespeare: Macbeth

No-Fear Shakespeare- As I’ve said before, this edition is fundamentally flawed, and I don’t recommend it to anyone. It purports itself to be a “translation” of Shakespeare, when in fact it’s just a loose paraphrase. I don’t agree with most of the choices that the editors put in these editions, and I think it dumbs down Shakespeare too much. In addition, I reject the concept that the plays need a translation- they were written in English, and purporting that a student needs a translation of Shakespeare just makes him or her dependent on this edition and still assume that they cannot understand Shakespeare’s text. So once again, I don’t recommend this version, but if you’d like to check it out, here’s a link below: https://books.google.com/books?

Sourcebook Shakespeare: Macbeth
Sourcebook Shakespeare: Macbeth

The Sourcebook Shakespeare– This is my favorite version of Shakespeare to study. They are probably too expensive to use in a classroom, but they really are worth it for a Shakespeare appreciation class. Not only do they have tons of notes and a really reader-friendly layout, each edition also contains a CD with up to 30 scenes and speeches from Shakespearean productions dating back 100 years! These editions focus specifically on how directors and actors have taken the same plays and interpreted them in new and interesting ways. In my view, this combination of reading and listening is one of the purest ways to demonstrate Shakespeare’s versatility, and why we keep reading him today. The same company is also developing versions for iPad to make the experience even more interactive: http://www.sourcebooks.com/blog/

Filthy ShakespeareFilthy Shakespeare- To be honest, this version is really more of a dictionary of naughty topics Shakespeare explored about in his plays, and is really just for entertainment purposes, but I thought I’d mention it anyway. I should of course mention that this version is not for children since it has lots of adult language. Click here for a sample: https://books.google.com/books?id=E523EogqB84C

Thanks for reading this post. If you’d like to learn more about the issues of editing and adapting Shakespeare, check out The Struggle For Shakespeare’s Text by Gabriel Egan. Let me know how you liked this post! I’m also planning on creating a series of audio interpretations of Shakespeare. Stay tuned!

Verily, May the Fourth Be With Thee

Hi everyone!

Well today is May 4rth, where a lot of people have chosen to celebrate one of the most iconic movies of the 20th century: Star Wars! And why not? The story is full of conflict, introspection, love, change, conflict between fathers and sons, and occasionally guidance from ghosts. Wait, that sounds familiar- it’s a lot like Shakespeare! Yes, the movie has a lot of parallels with the Shakespearean canon, and I’d like to share some of those similarities here. Below is a post I did for the American Shakespeare Center about how the Star Wars prequels parallel Shakespeare’s history saga of Henry the Sixth:

http://asc-blogs.com/2011/05/04/in-the-force-of-his-will-shakespeare-and-star-wars/

If you enjoy this post, I’ll post later in the week a review of a new play” William Shakespeare’s Star Wars” where the playwright Ian Doescher translates the screenplay of Episode Four into Shakespearean vernacular!

Enjoy May the Fourth!

How to read a Shakespeare Play for the first time!

Hi folks! Since this site is basically a Shakespeare appreciation site, I wanted to start off this week by showing you how you can enjoy Shakespeare at the first reading, even if you’ve never read him before! What follows is a list of advice based on the way I myself learned to enjoy Shakespeare, backed up with some nuggets of wisdom I’ve picked up from teachers along the way.

I. Learn the Story of the play.

 I would argue that the biggest advantage the Elizabethans had over us was they knew the story of the play before they even came into the theater. All of Shakespeare’s plays were adapted from other sources, including myths and fairy tales. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is literally a fairy tale about the Fairy Queen Titania. There was no such thing as “spoiler alert” in Shakespeare’s day, in fact the prologue of “Romeo and Juliet” gives away the ending before the play has begun!
Clearly, Shakespeare wasn’t interested in making his plays a surprise. The thing is that back then audiences didn’t want new stories, they wanted familiar stories told in a new way, the same way we base movies off of comic books and novels. So the first thing you can do to put you on the same level is read the story of the play before hand. Quiz yourself about what happens: who are the characters you should be rooting for? Whom are they fighting against? What is stopping the hero(s) from achieving their goals? This is a rare time when cliff notes and spark notes actually help; learning the story of the play will help you connect with the action on the stage and instead allow you to concentrate on the characters and the language. I also recommend websites like Crash Course that tell the story with a sense of fun.
II. Read the play- the whole thing, (preferably out loud).
The first time you read Shakespeare, you probably won’t get every word, but don’t worry, you’re not supposed to. Every single edition of Shakespeare has a glossary on the opposite page that translates the basic idea of what you’re reading. If you’re a first time reader, I highly recommend the Folger Shakespeare edition, (available at amazon.com). These editions not only have a good glossary, but big, friendly pictures of a lot of the terms. They also have a free online version of Shakespeare’s texts which you can look at here: http://www.folgerdigitaltexts.org/
I would also advise you to read the plays out loud. Shakespeare loved playing with the sounds of words- having characters hiss and bellow and whisper and seduce the ear. Some of the most fun I ever had with Shakespeare was having a Shakespeare reading party with my friends, where we discovered a play by reading it together and playing with voices and accents.
Another option is to listen to the play while you read it. There are great websites like Audible.com and Librivox that allow you to listen to the play spoken by voice actors. Hearing the play will open it up in a way that just reading it can’t After all, the plays are meant to be heard, that’s why they call it an audience (audio- to hear).
Finally, if you go to nearly every public library there’s a recording of The Archangel Shakespeare, a series of CD recordings of professional actors performing every one of Shakespeare’s plays. Many of these performers have done Shakespeare professionally, so you know they know what they’re taking about.
III. Watch a movie. There are hundreds of Shakespeare movies out there, and each one can show you a little bit about how the play feels and looks when it is placed in the hands of an actor or director. You may be expecting some guy in wrinkled tights bellowing his lines in a fake-Elizabethan set, but lots of Shakespeare movies have chosen inventive settings for Shakespeare in different times and places, like Ian McKellen’s Fascist-era Richard III, Michael Hoffman’s 19th century Midsummer Night’s Dream, or my favorite, Julie Taymor’s epic retelling of Titus Andronicus in a fictionalized blend of ancient Rome and modern Italy. A movie allows you to hear the text read, and allows you to see ideas from the play brought to life on the big screen.
IV. Go see it if you can. Almost every major city has a Shakespeare festival, and lots of regional theaters also choose to do Shakespeare. The reason is simple- he’s royalty free, and everyone recognizes his name. As you watch the play, try to answer these questions:
-Which characters did you like?
-Was there a line you really liked or one that seemed to speak to you?
-Did this play remind you of another play or movie? Did it remind you of something from your own life?
V. If I can recommend a good play to start with, start with Å Midsummer Night’s Dream. This play is not only very easy to understand, it’s also charming, funny, romantic, magical, and has a lot of colorful characters. I myself have directed and starred in Dream, and seen no less than 15 productions on stage and screen! If I can quell the fear you may have about Shakespeare, my wife and I directed the play with actors who had never read Shakespeare before, never acted before, and most of them were only 8 years old! So if they can learn this play and grow to love it as much as I do, then I firmly believe you can too!
Helpful hints-
1. Shakespeare’s company performed outdoors in the middle of the day, so they had no control over their environment. All the actors had was a bare stage, costumes, and a couple of props. This is why Shakespeare devotes lots of passages to just tell you where the characters are, and what time of day it is. His is a theater of the imagination, so read the descriptions and let the world come to life in your head.
2. Shakespeare drew heavily on images from Greek/Roman mythology and the Bible. If you need help looking up some of these resources up, I can recommend the Encyclopedia Mythica for Greco-roman references, and the Catholic Encyclopedia for Christian references.
3. There is a glossary of every single word Shakespeare ever used and plenty of books too. In terms of simplicity and ease of use, I recommend http://www.shakespeareswords.com/Glossary.
4. Shakespeare wrote four types of plays – Comedy, History, Tragedy, and Romances.
    • In Tragedy, the hero dies by the end, and the overall tone is one of change and struggle.
    • In Comedy, the hero and the heroine usually get married by the end.
    • The History Plays- are all about a struggle for the English crown and are based on historical chronicles. Most of them conclude in a battle or in the peace after a battle.
    • Romances– “Romance” is a term invented by scholars to describe some of the last plays Shakespeare wrote that don’t end in death like tragedies, and don’t end as happily as the comedies. One such play has a man get eaten by a bear, and another has a man forced to marry a prostitute! Some scholars don’t like this title, but i keep it here because it’s the most common term for these weird plays that include Cymbeline, Pericles, The Winter’s Tale, and The Tempest.

4. DO NOT READ THE NO-FEAR SHAKESPEARE EDITIONS. These books and websites advertise to be a clear-cut translation of Shakespeare with his text on the left, and a modern translation on the right. I believe these editions don’t do justice to the cleverness of Shakespeare’s writing. For example, here’s the famous speech of Macbeth when he discovers that his wife is dead:

She should have died hereafter.
There would have been a time for such a word.
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
I’ve actually played Macbeth, and when I saw this speech, I played it as a struggle to deal with the loss of his wife, (the only person he truly cares about), while at the same time dealing with imminent war. Macbeth wants to put off dealing with the news until tomorrow because he can’t possibly handle it now. What’s really cool about Shakespeare is you don’t have to agree with me; you could just as easily interpret the speech as a manifestation of psychosis, of loneliness, or how bitter and unfair Macbeth’s life is and it would still work! That’s why actors and directors love going on and on about Shakespeare; he gives us the freedom to interpret the speech the way we want, as long as we stay true to the basic text. I don’t think anybody could claim that this is a happy speech! The problem is that No Fear Shakespeare makes it too simple, and doesn’t allow you to really consider the possibilities for interpretation. Read their translation of the speech below:

MACBETH

She would have died later anyway. That news was bound to come someday. Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow. The days creep slowly along until the end of time. And every day that’s already happened has taken fools that much closer to their deaths. Out, out, brief candle. Life is nothing more than an illusion. It’s like a poor actor who struts and worries for his hour on the stage and then is never heard from again. Life is a story told by an idiot, full of noise and emotional disturbance but devoid of meaning.
Of course, if you bear in mind the limitations of translating Shakespeare and give yourself the freedom to take it with a grain of salt, that could work too.
So there’s a basic guide for first time readers. Let me know if you agree with my approach, what strategies work for you, and if these techniques were helpful!