No More Excuses!

Alright, so I am officially a Master and as such can not use school work as an excuse for not posting. I am still trying to decide if it is better to post something (anything) regularly, or only post when I have something worthwhile to say… maybe I’ll post on that life struggle another day… (ideas! yay!)

Anyway, in celebration of passing my comprehensive exams, I have decided to post some excerpts of my question that dealt with my Shakespeare project. The beginning of the essay response was my favorite because it outlined the primary goals of the project:

What Dreams Are Made Of: Shakespeare for Kids is a program designed to introduce children to one of the greatest writers in history, William Shakespeare. Each episode kids – ages 6 to 8 – will watch a group of theater students perform and explore the themes of a different Shakespeare play. Plays could also be repeated on multiple episodes because there are so many themes and ideas to explore with every play, ensuring the longevity of the program. What Dreams Are Made Of illustrates the belief that no one is too young to learn to enjoy and appreciate Shakespeare.

Each episode and its supplementary material will be designed with a clear set of hierarchal goals in mind: Story, Language, History, and Acting. The first, and most important goal, will be to illustrate the story to the audience. Kids should walk away from the program understanding the basic plotline of the play. Those familiar with Shakespeare know that his plays never had just one story, they often had three to four, but only one or two dominate the play. During adaptation, the team will identify the main and secondary storyline of each play, as well as any additional side plots. The adaptation for the program itself will focus on the primary, and when possible, secondary plot to conform to time constraints. Additional video will be made available online to show any side stories that had to be omitted from the main program.

The second goal of the program will be to introduce the language Shakespeare used. Students should understand what different words mean in Shakespeare. This will happen one of two ways. Either the students themselves will discuss the word or a pop-up on the screen will provide a definition. Many online materials will be available as well to provide a fuller understanding. There will be an online Shakespeare dictionary, and videos explaining the poetic conventions used. Students will only understand the story if they understand what is being said, that is where the language comes in. Kids have to know what the characters are saying, but the program will not change the writing to be in modern English. Each play will be performed as seen in any Shakespeare text.

Shakespeare’s life and the time he lived in will be explored primarily through online supplements. Online video will discuss Shakespeare’s biography and what life was like in Elizabethan England. There will also be games and other activities that give students the opportunity to explore life during Shakespeare’s time. One such game would be an online social game, similar to Pottermore or Neopets, where students can live in and explore Elizabethan England. It would be similar to Pottermore in that every participant would be anonymous (screen name assigned) and there would be limited opportunities for interaction with other characters. In Neopets, kids get to have their pet and play games to earn prizes, they can sell fake merchandise in a personal shop and visit with other players, but that interaction is not required and not open-ended (no chatting).   We would also have the option of producing some special episodes that discuss Shakespeare’s history.

Finally, the program would aim to introduce the conventions of theater and the dramatic arts. In online video and activities, students would learn different stage directions and warm-up activities. They would be encouraged to make costumes and perform their own scenes. Some acting conventions will appear in the show because the story centers on a theater group.”

“The immediate benefit that the program has is the wide array of characters and situations it can adapt for problems kids face today. Shakespeare’s characters may be in unfamiliar settings to kids, but the basic relationships between the characters are just a prevalent today. Hamlet could be used to help kids cope with the death of a parent, or a parent remarrying. The violence and sexuality would be toned down a lot, but the emotions behind his actions will remain. Putting characters into family situations that are familiar to kids can help them learn how to deal with them.”

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