Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Ultimate Hump Day

Hey all! My name is Carla Ricci, and I'm an education intern here at the American Shakespeare Center. Although I hail from Wakefield, MA, I spend most of my time at St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY, where I'll be a senior this year. Yesterday was Wednesday, so besides being an ordinary hump day, it also marked the middle of my three weeks down here in Staunton.

Even though its only been a week and a half, I've still learned so much down here. My main project, which I started with Elena and have been working on continuously is finding primary source documents about Shakespeare, his lifestyle and time, his companies, and his theaters. Now, the word research alone is enough to make most people squirm, and combined with the phrase “old english documents”, it can be downright terrifying. However, after just a few hours of research, I found myself being fascinated with the things I was finding. Original text documents, written about Shakespeare or with his signature, as well as reviews of his plays from the period, and accounts from theater-goers and visitors in the time. I even discovered the original text of the play Arcadia, which my school is putting on this fall. Every day in front of the computer, I discover a new piece of information that makes me think about Shakespeare in a whole new way.

In addition to learning about Shakespeare, I've had the wonderful opportunity this week to teach a little bit about Shakespeare. Yesterday and Monday I had the chance to drive down to Natural Bridge Hotel with Christina to present to the Road Scholars. Road Scholar is a program for older adults in which they set up educational vacations around the country. This particular group was down in Natural Bridge all week, taking a variety of classes on everything from Buddhism to Natural Bridge geology to original Shakespearean staging conditions. The workshop was a blast--and even though we did it three different times, each one was different and unique. What we really covered in the class was the way that Shakespeare's language influenced his performance. For example, we did an iambic pentameter exercise in which folks in the audience were each given a syllable of a line of text. They stood or sat depending if their syllable was stressed or unstressed in the line. This way, we got a clear visualization of a line of iambic pentameter, and also realized the inner meaning of the line based on the stressed words. We also got to play around with Shakespearean staging--explaining and demonstrating the benefits of having a thrust stage, universal lighting, and audience interaction. What I loved most of these workshops was that I could really tell these people were interested, and that we were surprising them with information they never knew before. In particular, during questions at the end, a mini-discussion started debating the merits of film versions of Shakespeare with lots of special effects versus the more traditional text-based performances. The Road Scholars were a fantastic audience, and it was great to have the experience of being able to show them all something new.

Carla Ricci

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