All hail, great master! Grave sir, hail! I come
To answer they best pleasure, be’t to fly,
To swim, to dive into the fire, to ride
On the curled clouds. To thy strong bidding, task
Ariel and all his quality.
~The Tempest, I.iii
It’s been four months since my Summer of Shakespeare ended, and my days have been nearly Bardless since then. For three weeks in July I ate, slept and dreamt Shakespeare with an incredible team of colleagues, directors and coaches as part of Teaching Shakespeare Through Performance at the Globe Theatre. As a teacher and director, it was the most exciting and engaging professional development I’ve ever had; as a lifelong student of literature and theatre, it was thrilling to explore Shakespeare’s works in such depth and in as authentic a context as one can hope to achieve in the 21st century. We were all incredibly sad when it ended, but, as Shakespeare reminds us in many a play, our time on the stage of life is brief and the moments that shape it are even briefer — which is part of what makes every minute so precious and our need to make the best of our time here so crucial.
That’s why I’m so pleased that a new season of Shakespeare is about to begin, and unlike my three week Summer of Shakes, this Winter/Spring of Shakespeare will be a season of indefinite length, like a George R. R. Martin winter (Winter is coming, but it shall not be a winter of discontent!). It begins in two weeks when the drama club I direct at PACE High School will begin work on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This will be my first time directing a Shakespeare play, something I’ve wanted to do for years now, but never felt competent enough as a director until my experience at the Globe. This means I’ll be teaching the play to my 12th graders in drama class, and hopefully creating lessons for the rest of the grades at school to make the play approachable for all the students.
I also have an intrepid crew of thespians who are participating in the English-Speaking Union’s National Shakespeare Competition. Between now and February when we hold our school competition, I’ll help nine contestants develop their monologues into strong, stand-alone performances. One of them will go on to compete regionally, and from there, if chosen, he or she will represent New York in the national competition. At the moment we have a grand assortment of characters chosen by the students: Petruchio, Gertrude, Desdemona, Isabella, Viola and a few Richard IIIs. I can’t wait to see what the kids do with them!
Additionally, my English class studies whichever Shakespeare play BAM happens to offer through their fantastic education program. This year in April we’ll go once more unto the breach with the highly-acclaimed RSC production of Henry V. I’m taking it upon myself to study the whole tetralogy (Richard II, 1 Henry IV, 2 Henry IV and Henry V) and the Hundred Years War more broadly in order to teach the play from a place of deeper understanding.
(And there’s one other very exciting Shakespeare prospect on the horizon, but I’m not at liberty to share it until it’s official. So stay tuned!)
Suffice it to say, I’ll be steeped in Barddom from now until at least May, and I plan to blog quite a lot about all of it. I want to document my students’ responses and insights to their work with the plays and parts, share my own thoughts (and, likely, frustrations) as a director, and my questions as a reader.
The winter of content has begun! And like Ariel to Prospero in the quote above, I’ll be rendering my services unto the Gentleman from Stratford as a teacher, a director, a coach, a writer — whatever he needs me to do, I’m his willing acolyte.
So you’ll have to excuse me now; I have a lot of fulfilling, life-affirming work to do.