The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0230  Monday, 28 January 2002

From:           Ruth Ross <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Sunday, 27 Jan 2002 14:29:27 -0500
Subject: 13.0202 Re: Are they too stupid? UPDATE
Comment:        RE: SHK 13.0202 Re: Are they too stupid? UPDATE

When I was a high school student, our teacher played recordings (yes,
records!) of famous actors reading "Macbeth" as we followed along in our
books. As we listened, the lights went on over our heads: "That's the
way it's supposed to sound!"  Most young readers can't manage the
intonations, emphases, and general attitudes communicated in words
printed on a page. They don't have enough experience and they are too
young. Providing vocals for them is very helpful in getting them to
understand the play. Unfortunately, I'm not sure that audios are easily
procured in this videotape age. As for the video tapes, they can be
tricky. Often, the director has rearranged (or even rewritten) the text
and students want to watch the action (which is not necessarily a bad
thing, seeing as acting is more than words) so they don't follow along
in their books.

Anyway, I think that having the student actors read and discuss the play
before blocking, etc., is very important. Otherwise, they are reciting
lines they have memorized, often worrying about where they're supposed
to be and who's to speak next. That way, the characters never come to
life and the whole thing is an exercise in futility.  In my English
literature classes, I usually begin by emphasizing that Shakespeare was,
above all, a businessman, an actor/writer who stood to profit if his
play was a "hit." That way, we look at techniques he used to grab his
audience's attention, set up the entire play in a couple of lines, give
them the predominant images he hoped they'd follow and remember (this
was an audience used to four hour sermons in church, after all) -- in
short, hook their attention so they wouldn't ask for their money back!

Ruth Ross
Teacher of English!

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