Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Journey to RICHARD II, Part 12

Richard II
Shakespeare & Co., Lenox, MA
July 2013
I've been writing about my journey through the works of Shakespeare--on the page, on the stage. And the last few have dealt with my initial attempts to teach the Bard, specifically Hamlet at Western Reserve Academy in 1979-80 and The Taming of the Shrew at Harmon Middle School (Aurora, Ohio), commencing in the 1985-86 school year, the year I had my own son, Steve, in 8th grade English.

Last time, I posted some excerpts from a diary/journal I kept throughout that year--though not so assiduously as I now wish. Days went by (weeks, even) without any comment from me, and now I wish to thrash my youthful self--to send him to the willow tree to cut a switch I can use on his lazy butt. Oh well. I'll just write about what I do have--and what I can remember.

As I wrote last time, I began with a slide-show introduction to Shakespeare and the Elizabethans, a show that would eventually grow to hundreds of 35mm slides, which, later, I had to convert to digital format so I could use them in PowerPoints. (That was fun to do, believe me.) I also had the kids memorize a speech from Shrew (I added a sonnet, too--as well as some famous lines from other plays, like "By the pricking of my thumbs / Something wicked this way comes"--Macbeth. And I started bringing into class items that were relevant--recordings of Elizabethan music, works of art, posters from movies and play productions. Soon I had enough of the latter to cover the walls of my classroom. (Most of my teaching posters I donated to the Western Reserve Academy English Department when I retired in June 2011.)

Some final excerpts from that diary ...

Thursday, 19 December 1985: Tomorrow I've got to collect all these kids' Shakespeare notes. Tonight I'm going to try to put together some kind of study guide for The Taming of the Shrew for them to follow along with. They'll enjoy it a lot more if they know what the hell's happening.

Friday, 3 January 1986: Last weekday of the break. Yesterday [morning], went up to school about 9:30, worked there till about 12:30, punching holes in my Shrew scripts, punching holes in the notes I'm going to hand out on Shrew, just generally straightening up the room.

Wednesday, 8 January 1986: Found myself getting irritated with kids going, "Oooooh, do we have to do this?" I spent all this time getting ready for them and they didn't appreciate what I'd done. ... [A girl] surprised me ...by having both Shakespeare sonnets memorized, and I'd asked them to memorize only one. ... Kids totally missed a dirty line in Shakespeare today: When Christopher Sly is talked out of going to bed with his "wife,"he says, "Well so it stands I can hardly tarry." They weren't quite sure what "it" was--till I, uh, pointed "it" out. Probably get me in trouble. ["It" didn't.]

Tuesday, 14 January 1986: The kids seem to be liking it better as we're getting into it. Names are starting to sort themselves out.

Thursday, 16 January 1986: "...we charged through just about all but the ending of Shrew--kids laughing, enjoying (at least insofar as they understand).

Wednesday, 22 January 1986: Showed the first part of Burton-Taylor's Shrew. God, she was beautiful in 1967! In Zeffirelli's film, nearly every shot looks like some kind of lush Renaissance painting.

Next time--some final thoughts about those initial experiences with Shrew--and then on we go: some years of Shrew--then ... Much Ado About Nothing.

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