Globe Education Academy: Day 10

Our last day at the Globe started with iambic pentameter.

Margo had us start by galloping around the rehearsal space.  Literally.  Gallop to the left!  Gallop to the right!  Gallop some more!  And now lay on the ground and feel your heart.  She had us tap out our heartbeat on the ground as we lay there.  She explained that there is a rhythm in our bodies, one that we have heard our entire life.  This is the rhythm that Shakespeare chooses to use in his writing.  She then had us stand and stamp out our heart beat in unison.  dum DUM dum DUM dum DUM dum DUM dum DUM.

She then told us, “We stress the words we want the world to hear.  Let’s use that sentence.”  So we stamped our foot on the stressed syllables: “We stress the words we want the world to hear.”  Then, we looked at lines from Shakespeare, again stamping our foot on the stressed syllables. “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” “But hark! What light through yonder window breaks?”  

Margo explained that it’s much more interesting to look at when lines deviate from iambic pentameter, and to look at why.  She passed out Macbeth’s famous “Is this a dagger which I see before me” soliloquy.  Each of us were given a line from the soliloquy.  Going around the circle one-by-one, we would each read our line, stamping together on the stressed syllables, and determine whether it was in iambic pentameter or not.  If it was too long, we would stand.  If it was perfect, we would kneel.  It if was too short, we would lay down.  In the end, it created a cardiograph of sorts.  This provided us a visual that we could use to look at the soliloquy and start to analyze why Macbeth would deviate from iambic pentameter.

To provide a second way to analyze what’s going on in Macbeth’s mind as he speaks, Margo had us read the soliloquy while walking, changing direction on the full stops.  She then had us repeat the process, but change direction at all punctuation.

The rest of the day involved logistics or saying goodbye.  We met for awhile to finalize plans for our students’ performance of Taming of the Shrew.  We finalized which teachers would be in charge of what pages of our script.  We discussed logistics like how long we get, how many students we can bring, costumes, etc.  We then completed final reflections.

P1080519We had had a brief amount of free time before celebrating our accomplishments with a reception at Theo’s and a final banquet at The Swan at the Globe.  Later one of these receptions, I would learn that David Tennant was married at the Globe and that his reception was at The Swan.  But before that knowledge was bestowed upon me, a group of us decided to take one last walk along the Thames, enjoying the damp London weather and the view of St. Paul’s.

Later that evening, we would take one final walk home from the Globe.  The Millennium and Blackfriar’s bridges were lit up.  The dome of St. Paul’s was likewise aglow.  It was a Friday night, so restaurants, pubs, and cafes were still bustling at that late hour as we made our way back to Farringdon Rd.  It was the perfect walk back on our very last evening in London.

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Photo Post #5

These photos are from our second day at the Globe Education Academy.  Included are photos of the copy of the Roubiliac Statue of Shakespeare (1758) at the British Library, the Shakespeare Head Pub, the National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, the John Soane Museum, the Shakespeare Monument (1912) at St. Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe (as well as a photo of St. Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe), Southwark Cathedral and it’s Shakespeare Monument, and the Globe’s photo of Shakespeare as a 13-year-old (as created by police sketch artists).

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Globe Education Academy: Day 9

Before classes started on Day 9, I grabbed a mocha from Paul and walked with Sue and Rhiann to Borough Market.  Works cannot express how much I love Borough Market.  I bought tea for my husband, discovered Spice Mountain and wanted to stay there all day, tasted Rhiann’s chocolate croissant… And then realized that we had to get ourselves to class.

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We began with a debrief of our performances from the night before, and was followed with some practice at cutting scenes.  In November, our students will be putting on a production of Taming of the Shrew in Mondavi’s Studio Theater.  We have been told that each of our scenes (remember, we’ve divided Shew into twelve scenes) can take no more than 5 minutes.  This means we will need to cut–a lot.

P1080479To practice, Margo gave us the wedding scene from Much Ado About Nothing, where Hero’s chastity is called into question.  We first divided it into mini scenes, and then as small groups chose one of those scenes to cut.  We then “performed” each of our cuts to the rest of the group.  Margo’s consistent feedback was that we did a great job cutting, but that we probably could have cut a little more.

This idea of “cutting” Shakespeare was, well, freeing.  Sometimes I think we look at Shakespeare and think, “Oh.  He’s cannon.  He cannot be touched.”  But really, who says that you can’t pare things down and make it more accessible for your kids–especially if they’ve never read Shakespeare before?  Kids need to feel success with something small, before they can build up to something larger.  If that means cutting a scene and looking at just that small part in depth, then so be it!

After quickly eating my Waitrose salad, I ran back to Borough Market with the rest of the group.  We picked up some French cheese, yogurt, and strawberries to have as snacks during the performance of The Tempest.  I also tasted Helen’s toasted cheese sandwich.  Apparently, it’s the “best toasted cheese sandwich in the world,” made by Kappacasein.  (It was pretty amazing–and I’m not even a huge fan of melted cheese.)

Photo courtesy of Kelley

Photo courtesy of Kelley

Then we made our way to the Globe for a reward: The Tempest.  This, hands down, was one of the best performances I’ve ever seen.  They really made use of the entire theater.  A character descended from heaven.  Another came up from under the stage (hell).  Characters not only entered through the groundlings, but could be seen in the balconies listening in on conversations.  When some characters stood in the upper galleries and threw out flower petals that rained down upon the audience, I was entranced!  It even rained during the performance, and I know this sounds silly but I felt like that made it more of an authentic experience.

The actor who played Ariel was Colin Morgan, Merlin on the TV show “Merlin.”  I was sitting behind a few rows of British schoolboys, and when he appeared on the stage one of them excitedly turned to his friends and whispered, “Is that Merlin?!”  To make my day even more complete, a young woman–a groundling dressed in a bright pink shirt–would sigh and bat her eyes at Mr. Morgan every time he came on stage.  For a while I forgot to pay attention to the performance and just watched her for awhile.  She was rather amusing.

I had tentatively planned to stand in line after The Tempest to see if I could get return tickets for Macbeth (which would be performed that evening), but after such a long week I could feel the exhaustion hitting me.  I didn’t even walk home as usual.  I hopped on the bus.  Thank goodness Rhiann was with me and kept me talking, because in spite of that I felt myself falling asleep.

If she hadn’t been there this would be a completely different blog post, where I discussed waking up somewhere in the middle of London on a double decker bus and having to find my way home.  But alas (for you), I lived the more boring version: doing laundry, packing, eating Waitrose’s tomato and basil (with a touch of balsamic vinegar!) soup, enjoying a snack at the Betsy Trotwood, reading, and sleep.

Globe Education Academy: Day 8

Day 8 started with Voice.  Sarah’s goal was to give us pointers for outside voices (to help with our performance) and class control.

Sarah told us that “the Globe isn’t outdoors–it’s a theater without a roof.”  We would benefit from the fact that the Globe is intimate and enclosed.  That said, there were some tricks she wanted us to remember for being on stage:

  • Articulation is key.  Your intention needs to be clear and your direction (both physical and vocal) needs to be clear.
  • You cannot wander.  You cannot let your head float.  Turn your head and body together. You have to direct your audience.
  • If it is very noisy (an airplane flying overhead, for instance), give yourself a break.

As for voice and class control:

  • Prepare your voice daily.  It will last longer and help you be heard.
  • The daily semi-supine position will help you find your breath, relax, and cultivate a sense of calm.
  • Proper alignment and straight posture is key.
  • Don’t lock your knees — it affects the voice by stopping the breath.
  • Quiet, firm speech is more likely to get people’s attention (vs. raising one’s voice).
  • Make them come to you.  Don’t go to them.
  • Think about the value of silence.
  • No one can compete with 30 young kids.  A quiet, positive voice will bring calm.  Be very clear.  Imbue your words with color (pitch/range).  Think before you speak (this gives time to calm yourself).
  • When you’re sick: Use steam for sore throats.

Then it was off to Movement with Gylnn!  After a really good stretch, Glynn had us do a run-through of our scenes so that she could see them.  Then it was time for sitting in a circle for a pep talk to get us ready for the evening performance.

That evening, we had thirty minutes with Margo to calm our nerves and four hours of rehearsal to finalize our performances.  Then it was off to the Globe stage!

P1080491I actually walked onto stage without feeling nervous.  It was amazing.  I hate being up in front of people.  Once, I had to present something at a conference in front of 1000 people, and I couldn’t eat all day.  This, though?  I had been so well prepared by everyone at Globe Education that I was just ready.

Yes, I forgot a line — which completely frustrated me.  I knew my lines cold, and I had since our first rehearsal.  I think I got so caught up in the moment that I looked at Helen (playing Tranio) and it just went right from my head.  This is where I learned to true value of team work, Helen picked up with the next line and the scene was saved.  I was able to get right back into things and stay in character, all because my teammate had my back.

I applied to this program, because I wanted to challenge myself.  I wanted to do something that I was completely not comfortable doing.  Traveling without my husband to London, spending two and a half weeks with people I barely knew ahead of time, and standing on a stage acting pushed me out of my comfort zone and taught me a lot about myself and about teaching:

  • Being comfortable in front of a crowd isn’t necessarily a personality trait.  It’s something that we have to build as teachers.  The practitioners at the Globe provided a safe, nurturing environment where I felt comfortable taking risks.  They then provided structured practice time so that we could practice our performance until we were all on the same page and knew our parts cold.  As a teacher, I’m constantly asking my students to get up in front of the class and give presentations, but I’m not sure if I do as good of a job making that as effortless for them as the Globe did for me.
  • When I was on stage, I knew that my team had my back and that we could get through any difficulties.  When things didn’t go as planned, they were able to pick up the slack and the performance moved on.  There were hugs backstage at the end of the performance.  We were a team, and we had grown close not only because we had a common goal and had spent so much time together, but because our director made sure from the beginning to do acting games and warm-ups to start developing that sense of team.  She said that this was a play, and that we would play together.  I think that’s a lovely idea to bring into teaching.  My students work in “teams” all the time, but how often do I let them play together in order for them to build the trust that they need to actually work together?

I’m so glad that I applied to this program.  I’m glad that I was able to stretch myself as an individual, and that I was able to learn so much from some great teachers.  You too can apply by clicking here.

Globe Education Academy: Day 7

Many apologies for so many days between posts.  Our schedule at the Academy didn’t leave a lot of room for blogging, and the jet-lag that I’ve been experiencing didn’t leave a lot of motivation to blog.  I’ll be catching up on the last four days of the Academy throughout this week.  I’ll also be posting photos–yes, long overdue–from my trip.

On Tuesday, we returned to the Globe well-caffeinated, and ready to work.

We started with a two hour session with Margo on “Creating a Production.”  For the first time, we sat down together to tackle the task of putting together our own production of Taming of the Shrew with our students.  Our first goal was to split the play into 12 parts.  (Each of us will be responsible for casting and directing one of these sections, our students eventually performing on stage at Mondavi.)  Margo split us into two groups to come up with a list of sections.  As always, she had us practice what we were learning: creating a tableaux for each of our scenes.  We then compared our lists and compiled one master list.  This was e-mailed to all of us so that we could take a look at it on our “spare time” and come back later in the week to finalize.

Our next session continued our Globe Education Practice.  We worked with Romeo and Juliet.  First, Margo split us into groups of three.  Each group was given three strips of paper that contained key lines from the text (each line representing a separate moment in the play).  We came up with a tableaux for each of the lines.  Then, Margo had us sit in a circle, and began to tell the story of Romeo and Juliet as if it were a fairytale.  When she got to each of the major moments, a group would go up and create their tableaux.  One member of the group would read the line.  They would then sit down and Margo would continue with the story.

I thought that this activity could be great at the beginning of a Shakespeare unit: to preview the play.  It could also really work at the end, to summarize what was learned.  You could also do this for individual scenes.

Next, we turned to a particular scene in Romeo and Juliet (the beginning of 3.1, starting with Tybalt’s entrance).  After reading the scene through with a partner, Margo introduced us to five signs:

  1. To accept: We opened our arms wide
  2. To block: We crossed our arms in an “X” in front of ourselves
  3. To hook: We moved our arm like we were hooking an object
  4. To probe: We pointed and twisted our finger from one side to another
  5. To attack: We made stabbing motions with our pointing finger

We then worked in groups reading the same scene (each person taking on one character).  Our job was to decide which actions went with the words we were speaking.  After time to decide and practice, Margo had groups demonstrate what they had come up with.  What was interesting to note was the different–and valid–reasoning between groups.

Knowing that there would be differences between groups, Margo introduced a protocol in order to ask questions during a group’s demonstration.  We could clap to interrupt and ask a question.  Allowing the class to interrupt and ask a question holds the group presenting accountable to the actions that they had decided upon.

To finish, we looked at a scene between Banquo and Macbeth.  In pairs, we read through the scene.  Margo then introduced the following idea:

  • When your character is attacking, take a step towards your partner.
  • When your character is retreating, take a step away from your partner.
  • When your character is trying to figure things out/maneuver, step to the side to circle your partner.

Again, this got us thinking about the intention behind dialogue.

After two hours of historical dance, we had an hour for dinner and then three hours of rehearsal in preparation for our performance Wednesday night.

Globe Education Academy: Day 6

I have to admit that I’m a little delirious while I write this. We finished our work at the Globe this morning at 1:15am and were woken up by the maids cleaning our flat just after 9am. A large coffee is definitely needed. Maybe two.

That said, please don’t expect genius in this post. And please forgive any errors that I may make in grammar, spelling, punctuation, and whatnot.

Yesterday began with an hour with Giles. We ran through our lines and he gave us suggestions for how to read our lines based on the text. Immediately afterwards, my group met at Theo’s Cafe to run through our lines and continue our memorization work. I have to say that I’m feeling quite good about our scene.

Movement with Glynn followed. Then Voice with Sarah. During our voice session, we worked with Act 1, Scene 1 of Titus Andronicus, specifically the opening speeches of Saturninus and Bassianus. She gave us a few ideas for activities we could do in our classroom:

(1) Have one student read the speech. The group says each pronoun with him/her. (With this, it was interesting to see the contrast between the focus of each speech.)

(2) Have people stand up on a chair or table in order to read the speech. Have the class react. (With this, it was interesting to see what rhetorical devices are being used to excite an audience and draw them in.)

(3) Have people sit in a chair and read the speech as if they are on TV. (With this, it was interesting to see how the speech is appealing to people on a more personal level.)

My favorite idea came as an off-handed comment. Sarah mentioned His Girl Friday and that the characters speak quite fast, but are exceptionally clear. You can’t play that scene slowly. Her idea was to get the dialogue from the movie (knowing how long it takes Grant and Russell to speak the same amount of dialogue), and have students practice the scene trying to speak it as fast as they do (and still be clear).

After our last session, we went to Tas to celebrate Sarah’s birthday, and then made our way to the Globe to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was fantastically hilarious.

Our evening ended with rehearsal…ON STAGE. Words cannot describe how incredibly awesome that was, so I will not try.

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Globe Education Academy: Days 4 and 5

Thursday was a day that flew by with few breaks. Our day began at the Globe’s library. I want to see if I can arrange some time to head back there to really examine what they have. Besides books, you can view performances from every production the Globe has had since it was rebuilt, look through the archives, read journals… It’s only open two days a week, though, so getting back may be a bit problematic.

We met again with Margo to continue with our Globe Education Practice sessions. We worked with a scene from Macbeth (the same one that I observed students working on the day prior). Margo told us not to be afraid of editing the text for our students. They need to be successful with a small bit first. People learn in spirals. She had cut the scene so that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth get a single line each.

Each of us received one line, which we read aloud. We were then asked to pick one “powerful” word from the line to represent that line. That was shown around the circle. Next, we had to create a gesture that went with the word (and demonstrate those around the circle).

Margo lead us in the yes/no tactic activity (see the post prior to this one). She then had us read our line with a partner and determine what tactic Lady Macbeth and Macbeth were using in those two lines. We practiced them and then performed those two lines (in sequence) as a group.

Margo did these activities in a circle. I might do this with them lined up and facing each other. It might make it easier for my students to visually keep track of who is Lady Macbeth and who is Macbeth.

We practiced this again with one of Macbeth’s soliloquies. The soliloquy was split into sections. We chose powerful words, and then acted each section out as groups. Margo then told us to imagine that there was a line going down the center of our rehearsal room. The left side represented the idea that Macbeth won’t kill the kind; the right side represented that he will. Putting ourselves in the shoes of Macbeth at the end of the soliloquy that we just worked with, we needed to place ourselves on that line. I could see this final activity being great for debates and justifying answers using quotations.

In the afternoon, we met with Giles Block (whose new book I subsequently purchased). Giles is brilliant. Here are a few tidbits that I picked up from him:

-Verse is made up of two components: rhythm and line length (what one can easily say in one breath).
-When people say something that they hold dear, they often say it in iambic pentameter. Charles Dickens in a letter he wrote in 1844 discusses how he falls into blank verse when he is “very much in earnest.”
-Where the line ends is never arbitrary and always of interest. There is a reason why it is there. It captures speech. It is connected with breath. (You leave people with something of interest before breathing.)
-Trochees surprise us. The stress comes when we don’t expect it.
-It is the rhythm that conveys the emotion.
-We need to stop teaching that characters of “lower orders” speak prose and “higher orders” speak verse. These characters of “lower orders” are traditionally comedic. They use prose because the stresses fall unexpectedly and it runs faster.
-Verse carries the sound of sincerity. Prose is not sincere.

After a Q&A with the cast of Taming of the Shrew, we attended Tony Howard’s session on Shakespeare on Stage and Screen. He ran us through several film and television versions of the play, demonstrating how the gender issues presented in the play were treated differently over time. Fascinating!

Our day ended with rehearsal. Jo wanted us to think about how our characters related to each other in terms of status. She had us play a few games with playing cards to get us up and moving. With the first, we chose a card and walked into the room trying to project the amount of status we had (the King was the highest status; the ace the lowest). Others then had to guess what we had. A second incarnation of the game had us walk through the room not knowing what our card was. Others treated us accordingly. We had to guess what we had. We then arranged ourselves in a line from highest status to lowest status, arranging our characters.

The rest of the time was used to work through the scene. We used a ball to point towards who we were talking to, and gave the ball to them when we were asking a question. This really helped us determine whether we were talking to another character, a group of characters, or the audience.

Friday was a bit slower paced. We started with classes in Movement (with Glynn MacDonald) and voice (Sarah Case). Both did wonders for my self-esteem.

We spent the afternoon pouring over resources provided by the Globe. If you’re a teacher, you should head to the Globe’s website and check out their Adopt an Actor program, their Playing Shakespeare resources, and their archives of previous productions. You should also consider getting your hands on their Dynamic Learning editions of Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, or Much Ado About Nothing. They are fabulous.

I’ll try to post a bit about the weekend a little later today.

Globe Education Academy: Day 3

I’m afraid that the past three days were so full that there wasn’t really time to blog. Wednesday and Thursday night I left The Globe around 10:30pm, without a huge amount of breaks. I’m a little overwhelmed about trying to relay all of that information, so I’m going to focus on Wednesday and try to catch up this weekend.

Wednesday began with a “Lively Action Practice” with Globe Education Practitioners. Basically, we got to see what we were learning in action. I watched Susan teach Macbeth to a group of 11-12 year olds. What was great was that it wasn’t going to plan. Students were a little disengaged or really shy to participate. To me, that was far more beneficial to watch than a session that just went perfectly. The reality is that things don’t go perfectly every time, and observing someone navigating that was incredibly valuable.

Just as an overview of the activities that Susan did:

(1) She started with some acting games: sending a clap around the circle, and a variation of that where they did it with their eyes closed. I thought the variation was interesting in terms of team work and collaboration. She also had them do a second game where when she told them to go they walked, stop they stopped, stomp they stomped, and clapped they clapped. She then slowly began mixing this up. (So, for example, when she said “go” they would stop and when she said “stop” they would go. This got them up and active, and got their brains going.

(2) She then placed students into pairs. Person A was told that they really wanted B to do something (give them money, go away, kill the king of Scotland–remember this is for Macbeth). Person B was told that they really, really don’t want to do it. A needed to use as many tactics as possible for B to do what they wanted them to do, with the catch that the only word they could use is “yes.” The only word B could use in response was “no.” They could use gestures, voice, body language.

After letting students play with this, she had a few volunteers demonstrate what they did. She had the other students identify the types of techniques that they were using to either convince or deny their partners, asking them, “What is he doing as a verb?”

She then did a variation of this using lines from the text. A would say, “When you durst do it, then you were a man.” B’s response was “We will proceed no further in this business.” Prior to letting kids loose, she unpacked the language with them. Again, volunteers were asked to demonstrate what they did.

(3) She gave the students the scene between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth that the above quotes came from. It was about 1 page of texts. The students read the scenes in pairs, and afterwards they unpacked it as a group. She asked them first to tell her what was happening in the scene. Then they went through the lines dissecting it. Once the lines have been explained and dissected, they went through the scene again. She ended the session with a pair showing what they had been working on.

What I’ve noticed about everyone at the Globe is their vocabulary: Everything is so very positive. They’ll tell you, “Thank you for that offer” and “Brilliant!” after a response. When they are asking a question they might say, “What does this mean? Someone please be brave and give it a try.” It’s lead me to think a lot about the vocabulary that I use with students. You can create such a safe environment for people to work in simply by altering your vocabulary and being positive. The way that Margo explained it today is that in order to progress, you have to feel a little success.

Our day on Wednesday ended with a four hour rehearsal. My group will be performing 3.1 of Taming of the Shrew, and I will be playing Baptista. For this first rehearsal, Jo Howarth got us up and moving first and then gradually inserted lines to get us comfortable with the language in our scene.

-We walked and used the space.
-We continued walking but high-fived each other (saying a line to each other when that happened)
-We walked and would lean against each other, saying another line.
-We held hands and leaned back, finding a balancing point…and again would say a line to each other.

She used lines throughout the scene from various characters, and basically told the story of the scene. It got us up and moving, we learned a few lines, and we started to get really comfortable with each other as a cast.

Our second activity was to actually look at the script. We split our edited script into sections (based on entrances and exits). We read through each section and then worked together to name the scene. When this was done, we created a tableaux for each scene (so that we would have a physical memory of what happened in it). We went back through the scenes and picked one line from each section that summarized the essence of the scene. We then combined the tableaux with the line.

I think this activity could definitely be used in my classroom. It’s a great way for students to physicalize what is happening in the scene. It also gets them to work with the same piece of text in multiple readings.

Our day ended with watching the Globe’s performance of Taming of the Shrew. I loved it! We were groundlings, and got to lean against the stage for the entire performance, looking up at the actors. Never have I been so close to the performance, and I think that’s really what made it a bit magical. You almost start to think that you’re in the action. This performance of Shrew was interesting because it was done by an all-female cast. What’s funny is that I actually forgot that they were women. They did a wonderful job sucking me into the story.

What I most liked, though, was how they played the ending. Shrew is a bit difficult for modern audiences, because of the gender issues brought up in the play. In it, Petruchio “tames” Kate by starving her, not letting her sleep, and making her look like a fool. As I watched the performance, I kept wondering how they were going to play the final scene where Kate is “tamed” and she gives a speech about how women need to be subservient to their husbands. This company turned this comedy into a tragedy. Kate is absolutely broken at the end. The reaction of the other characters is, “Oh, crap. Look what we’ve done.” They realize that they’ve lost something, and they’ll never get it back. You could hear a pin drop through the final scene, and when the characters left the stage the feeling was one of awkwardness. It’s hard to know what to do with that sort of an ending as an audience member. It was fantastic.

Globe Education Academy: Day 2 (Continued)

After I published last night’s post, I had a thought about how I would incorporate yesterday’s activity in my classroom. It would be very easy to replicate it, without having to visit London.

Students could be split into groups, and given the exact same prompts/tasks that we were given before we set out on our cross-London adventure. Rather than sending them out into the world, they could be provided with copies of the images from each location, with brief histories/explanations (much like those found next to images in art galleries).

After students are given time to look through the images and respond to the prompts, their job as a group would be to argue which is the truest image of Shakespeare. We were assigned one to argue for, which I don’t think is a bad idea at all. Whether we believed what we were arguing or not, we had to find a way to argue for it. That’s a good skill for kids to develop.

I could see using this at the beginning of a Shakespeare unit, as a way for students to learn about the man named William Shakespeare. I could see using this in place of the documentary that I showed this year.