Testimonial – Hannah Jeens, Head of English, St Marylebone School
A Merchant of Venice project with Shakespeare in Italy
I feel extremely fortunate to have had the experience provided to us by Shakespeare in Italy with their outreach programme based around their production “A Merchant of Venice”. At every turn, they offered us more than we expected and were accommodating of changes necessitated by school logistics, in this very challenging time.
This year, following lockdowns and remote learning, providing enrichment opportunities beyond the classroom has felt like one of our more pressing educational responsibilities and needs. We were consequently delighted when Shakespeare in Italy were able to offer us a workshop in school for every single student in our Year 8 cohort, free tickets to a performance of a play we were studying, free programmes and a question-and-answer session with the actors. It was an incredible opportunity for our students; for many it was their first trip to a theatre and opened their eyes to new possibilities of learning.
They were particularly thrilled by the interactions with the actors. This was evident by the wide range of questions they asked during the question-and-answer session. They were keen to know all sorts of things both about being an actor and about the text itself, which is an experience they could never have realised in the classroom alone. The students also loved the fact that the actress playing Portia took part in their workshop. Even though I am sure their English teachers could have answered the same questions about Portia, it was much more interesting for them to speak to an actor!
I was very interested to see how the students lapped up the information they got from their workshops. I am grateful to Nikki Pearson for her extensive research and the depth of thought that went into the material. The students in my class in particular were so interested in the ways dogs were perceived in Elizabethan England, and it was thrilling to see them using this information to support their points about Shylock’s language both in class discussion and later on in their written work. Of course, not only did this enhance their English and drama studies but opened their minds to living history and hopefully other subject teachers will also gained benefits from these activities.
Teaching The Merchant of Venice in Year 8 is a very rewarding and interesting unit, but it was definitely greatly enhanced this year by the experiences provided by Shakespeare in Italy. We only study four scenes of the play in class, as our teaching is focused on the interaction between Shylock and Antonio. It was fantastic for the students to then be able to see the rest of the play live (in a helpfully abridged version), and so enrich their understanding of how the part they know so well connects to the rest of the text.
I would like to thank Shakespeare in Italy for their generosity with their time and expertise, and for bringing Shakespeare to life so vividly, both as a text and as a part of the theatrical profession, for our students who have been starved of such experiences in recent years.
Here is a small selection of what the students had to say:
"It was very interesting to see how the actors viewed their characters. It was a very fun experience." (L)
"I liked how they interpreted the play in their own way and modernised it" (A)
1st year acting students at @ICTheatreUK wow with their engagement and talent
What a fab start to 2022!
Phakama theatre company at Queen Mary's University, London E1 organised Environment Day on Tuesday January 11th with acting students from the Institute for Contemporary Theatre in #Brighton
Artists - Rez Kabir led sessions on Ancient and Modern Cultures and Myths and Mary Chater on Magic, Symbolism and Nature in Shakespeare and some mask work
Phakama practitioners Bhavini Sheth and Caterina Tucker led warm ups
Sarah Sayeed and Anna Glarin run Phakama
Many thanks to Phil Edgerley, head of acting and Principle Lecturer for being a 101% welcoming at ICT - what great students you have and what a terrific atmosphere there is in the school!
Sending you much festive cheer and try to avoid catching Omicron or any other varieties of Covid that are out there this Christmas!
Photos of two of the several projects Shakespeare in Italy has enjoyed leading in 2021.
Apples and Eyes summer school was #ACE funded for 14 - 18 year olds and took place in Racehill Community Orchard in #Brighton overlooking the sea, the racecourse and #Whitehawk with #TrustforDevelopingCommunities and #BrightonPermacultureTrust - Aug 30 to Sept 3rd.
Our first production - A Merchant of Venice, new 6 character version of the original play, adapted and directed by Bill Alexander at The Playground Theatre, W10 - Nov 10 to Dec 4th.
Production photos - © Guy Bell, GBPhotos.com
Other work in 2021 included -
a summer school at The Playground Theatre in June with participants working over 2 days on #MuchAdoAboutNothing with actor / director / teacher Philip Cumbus and 4 days on #TwelfthNight and #TwoMerchantsofModena (a new translation by Mike Poulton of Gl'Ingannati which Shakespeare 'stole' to write Twelfth Night) with acclaimed director Lucy Bailey and RSC voice coach Michael Corbidge.
'Alien's Order' linked to our recent production of 'A Merchant of Venice' with a group called Well Written who are service users from St Charles Mental Health Centre in #W10. This is funded by the #CliffordChanceFoundation who we thank for their generosity. #AssociateDevelopment community engagement specialist Collette Parker has been leading sessions with a playwright and filmmaker on ideas and scripts to do with isolation, alienation and injustice ( themes from the play) which will be read or performed to camera.
workshops at St Marylebone CofE school linked to our first show with year 8 students in Nov / December. The students came to the production and for some it was the first time seeing a live show in a theatre. We thank BMH Associates for making the theatre visits and drama sessions possible.
In May, we were delighted to be the recipients of an award from the #EleanorRathboneFoundation in #Liverpool to do more workshops with women from #TheVenusCentre in #Bootle. Covid permitting, this work will be undertaken in 2022.
We ran an online programme of events in the early part of the year including a highly successful short playwriting competition called 'Lockdown, Taboo and You' - it was won by the #upandcoming young #playwright Mark Daniels with 'Corona Virus, A Great British Farce.'