At UH-Manoa's Dept. of Theatre and Dance, we are planning an outreach program that will perform scenes from Shakespeare's plays that deal with themes of love and madness. Many of the scenes will be from some of his best-known plays, like Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night...in many ways, this is a Shakespeare Sampler, or a Shakespeare's Top Ten. I have found that this type of program is very successful at introducing middle- and high-school students to the works of Shakespeare, especially using fight scenes. Nothing quite holds a student's attention like swordplay. Through carefully (and safely) choreographed fights, actors can utilize the spectacle of combat and combine it with the power of language to create riveting drama or comedy. It is this duality that we can demonstrate the power of Shakespeare's works--great language said by fascinating characters doing extraordinary things.
I believe that language is dying out in our all-too-visual world. Today's generation is reared on Vines and sound bites, and their ability to discern between the nuance of words is dwindling quickly. Shakespeare's vocabulary topped 30,000 words--the average American today has between 8,000 and 15,000, a huge loss. Using Shakespeare's works as a way to open a door to stories and the words that create them is an essential tool for any educator. But sometimes students can still be turned off just by the fact that it's Shakespeare. In my experience, using these scenes of confrontation, of high emotion, can create a chance for students to say, "Hey, I can relate to that."
You would think that the university would be able to fund such a small request as we are making. The reality is that they can't, or won't. We are left to raise all of our funds--we are totally dependent on the kindness of others who believe that the arts are vital.
Funded by Oahu, HI (December 2015)