Shakespeare’s works are OH-SO-TEACHABLE! The trouble is students really have difficulty with the language, so I take a very interactive approach whenever I teach anything Shakespeare.
Before we began reading King Lear, I showed The Reduced Shakespeare: The Complete Works (Abridged). My rationale is and always has been to make Shakespeare’s works accessible and relevant. This show reminds them of MAD T.V. or SNL. I can see by the looks on their faces and can hear their laughter and know that I’ve reached them!
We then proceed to read and act our way through the play. For each act, students portray a skit focusing on a variety of acting techniques (tone, inflection, blocking, body language, facial expression, scenery & symbolism, sound & visual effects ). To pull this off, they really need to do a close reading of the scene, understand not only the language but also the characters’ goals and motivation. At the conclusion, I believe they’ve not only enjoyed the unit, but I believe my goal in making Shakespeare accessible and relevant has been met.
As a capstone, I ask them to work in small groups, acting troupes, to select pivotal lines throughout the play. They can focus on a motif, character, relationship… it’s their choice. Next, each group took these lines to adapt them into a script, blocked scenes, chose a set, memorized lines, acted, directed, filmed, edited their own renditions of The Reduced King Lear. They’ve given me permission to share their work.