This will come as no surprise to many of you. I LOVE SHAKESPEARE! (See pics!) I really can’t pinpoint the exact moment I became so interested in The Bard. Sure, I enjoyed the works I read in high school and college – but it wasn’t then. Even in my first few years of teaching I didn’t have the same passion for all-things Shakespeare that I have now. Thinking back, I don’t think there was actually one thing that made me love him and his works. It was through years upon years of interaction (in school, performing in his plays, reciting his sonnets, teaching his works) that got me so interested in his works.
My first interaction with Shakespeare was in a performance of Macbeth the summer going into my sophomore year of high school. My drama teacher, Mrs. Leitner, taught a Shakespeare drama camp at Shippensburg University. That summer, I was cast as the role of Witch 3. Although we only studied and performed for a week, that week was AMAZING! Not only did I love the play, but I loved performing in it. I vividly remember my best friend Lindsey and I opening the play, huddled around a cauldron, equivocating. (At the time, I had no idea that’s what the witches were doing!) I also remember the can of AquaNet hairspray used to keep my frizzled hair in place. It took me week to wash that sticky stuff out of my hair!
Of course, we read Romeo and Juliet in school, and I loved it. And the next summer I was cast as the role of Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the first time I read one of Shakespeare’s comedies. For that performance, my hair was pushed through two cones placed on the top of my head. Hair pom-pommed from the tops of each cone. I loved the magic and whimsy in that play – as it totally contrasted the Shakespeare that I was used to reading. What a master of language/emotion/genres.
The next school year brought the reading of Julius Caesar, Taming of the Shrew, and a number of sonnets. Loved it all. Even though it was difficult to read his words at times, I think that was part of the appeal. Each time I read his work, I had to decipher what he was saying. It was a puzzle – and that was fun for me! (And still is!)
Then I acted in Romeo and Juliet twice – both were adaptations put into a modern day setting. Once I played Juliet, and the other time I was a news-reporter (Chorus).
I went to college, read a few more of his works – sonnets, Hamlet, Othello, and many others, and then I became an English teacher. Even though I already enjoyed Shakespeare and his works, this was when I began to appreciate them even more. Over the past nine years of teaching, I’ve taught Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Nights Dream, and sonnets. And in the teaching of those works, I’ve had the pleasure of learning more and more about the Elizabethan Era, Queen Elizabeth, King James I of England, Renaissance, Shakespeare’s time in London, etc.
As a high school English teacher, I pride myself on my enthusiasm for the Bard. My students see this enthusiasm and I like to think that this makes them even more interested in his timeless and universal works. Just yesterday, my students completed modern day interpretations of Romeo and Juliet. They created newscasts, puppet shows, gave eulogies – all fabulous interpretations where modern day connections were made. Although many students are intimidated by Shakespeare’s words, I try to make his language more accessible through a Shakespeare insults game, performance-based lessons, and modern-day connections. At the end of the school year, my students often say that the drama unit was their favorite (even the students who rolled their eyes and groaned at the mere mention of Shakespeare’s name at the beginning of the year). And I think it’s their enthusiasm that builds my excitement every year. And I’m finding out that my students are sharing my interest in Shakespeare with their parents, grandparents, and others. Just this year, a number of parents have contacted me to give me 3-D models of the Globe, Shakespeare books they’ve found, and photographs from their trips to London (Stratford Upon Avon, The Globe, etc.) Love it! When I was pregnant with my son two years ago, my Honors class threw me a baby shower, and showered me with multiple Shakespeare onesies that said, “Shakespeare is my Homeboy”, “Don’t baby talk me, my parents read me Shakespeare”, and “My mommy <3s Shakespeare”.
In February, my husband and I made a trip to Washington DC to visit the Folger Shakespeare Library. I had wanted to visit for years. They were hosting an awesome exhibit called “Decoding the Renaissance”. While there, one of the gentlemen who worked there suggested I apply for the Teaching Shakespeare Institute. I did this, and just found out a few weeks ago that I was one of 25 teachers selected for this program. I am BEYOND EXCITED about this, and ever more excited to work with like-minded Shakespeare educators from around the country!
Anyway – I could go on and on, but “brevity is the soul of wit,” so I’m going to say one more thing – Happy Shakespeare birth/death day!