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Shakespeare at Davidson Middle!

Seventh grade students at Davidson Middle School enjoyed a fun theatre workshop with Mentor Artist Melissa Briggs.

Students in the Shakespeare Workshop with Melissa

During the Renaissance curriculum, history teachers Mr. Snow and Mr. Cosgriff invited Melissa to reinforce their lessons with an emphasis on the role of William Shakespeare in the cultural ‘rebirth‘ that reinvented Europe and England in the 14th-17th centuries.  Students explored the Bard’s role in the Renaissance.  They discussed how the timing was perfect for Will because of the growing popularization of theatre as wealthy merchants became patrons of the arts at the same time that the feudal order broke down allowing peasants leisure time to spend as they pleased – watching plays!  Kids examined the vernacular language of the era and made many connections to their own generation’s commonly spoken language.  Up on their feet, the young actors played an exciting games that mined the rich material of Shakespeare’s many plays.

A famous Shakespearean death scene

Lessons highlighted Shakespeare’s history plays and reviewed curriculum key words and dates.  Melissa demystified the “weird and old fashioned” language of the late 1500 and early 1600′s by encouraging thoughtful group analysis that drew thematic parallels to the students appreciation of their own contemporary lyric artists, from Lauren Hill to Kanye West.  Finally, students performed a key scene from each act of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet; the young actors and directors staged the whole play in tableaux, a dramatic technique (popular in the Renaissance) that tells an action story through a still (or frozen) picture.

Davidson student practices her "tableaux" pose

As you can tell by these images, it was a joy to work with the students and teachers and Davidson!

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