The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0569 Tuesday, 29 March 2005
From: Hardy M. Cook <
Date: Tuesday, March 29, 2005
Subject: Obituary: Janet Field-Pickering
Janet Field-Pickering; Folger Library Official
By Louie Estrada
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 29, 2005; Page B08
Janet Field-Pickering, 51, the Folger Shakespeare Library's head of
education who developed programs and resources to help teachers and
students gain a better understanding of the works of the Elizabethan Age
playwright, died of cancer March 21 at her home in Silver Spring.
A former high school English and drama teacher, Ms. Field-Pickering was
for the past 10 years the coordinator and guiding force behind the
library's extensive educational outreach programs. Those included docent
tours, teacher workshops, educational materials, online resources and
the annual elementary and secondary school Shakespeare festivals, during
which students perform excerpts from Shakespeare's plays on the Folger
She updated classroom lesson plans available on the library's Web site,
www.folger.edu, started a program for underserved D.C. public school
elementary students and created educational materials for media outlets.
Most of the programs emphasized Ms. Field-Pickering's preference for
"performance-based" learning of Shakespeare, in which students speak the
dramatic verses aloud and act out the plays rather than listen to lectures.
"Janet brought a unique blend of magnificent gifts to the work -- the
skill set of a master teacher, the enthusiasm of someone who really
loves kids, the energy and vision of a leader," said Werner L.
Gundersheimer, who as former director of the Folger Shakespeare Library
hired Ms. Field-Pickering in 1995.
Ms. Field-Pickering was born in Boston and grew up in Scituate, Mass.
She graduated from Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania with a degree in
English and received a master's in English from the Bread Loaf School of
English at Middlebury College in 2003.
She joined the faculty at Chambersburg Area Senior High School in
Pennsylvania in 1979 and taught there until 1995, specializing in
advance placement English and drama. She directed student theatrical
productions as the faculty adviser for the drama program.
She also performed in productions at the Summer Theatre at Gettysburg
In 1994, she participated in a four-week summer teaching program at the
Folger Shakespeare Library. The next year, she applied for the position
of head of education, which became vacant when the first person to hold
that job, Peggy O'Brien, stepped down.
In 1998, Ms. Field-Pickering published "Discovering Shakespeare's
Language" with Shakespearean scholar Rex Gibson.
"I think that elementary students are such in a mode of learning new
words all the time that they don't get concerned about a word that they
don't understand," Ms. Field-Pickering once said about challenge of
Shakespeare's prose. "They start to revel in the sounds of the words and
the rhythm of the words -- words like rabbit sucker, and boisterous, and
cudgel and peevish, words that Shakespeare coined, or at least wrote
down for the first time in the English language, and they really enjoy
Survivors include her husband, David Pickering, and their two sons,
Andrew Pickering and Benjamin Field-Pickering, all of Silver Spring; her
parents, Charles and Florita Field of Boca Grande, Fla., and Scituate;
two sisters; and a brother.
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