AN INTRODUCTION TO THE PLAYS OF SHAKESPEARE
Take a lively 60-minute ride through many words and many worlds, written by Bard Education Director Mary Hartman. Five talented performers delight in Shakespeare’s language and revel in the art of asking questions. Designed for students, teachers and for anyone who’s curious about Shakespeare’s potential today.
“[A Shakesperience] is definitely tailored toward the teaching environment and needs of classroom teachers at all levels. Having taught special education, theatre and human services at every level from K to college, I am sure the specificity and creativity written into [the companion curriculum] will work at all levels to teach and inspire students.” – Ronnie Bell, Syracuse, NY
FREE streaming. Closed Captioning is available in English, French, Spanish (Latin), Hindi and Chinese (Simplified).
|WATCH WITH AUDIO DESCRIPTION
|WATCH WITH SUBTITLES
We created this collection of activities to guide you in deepening your explorations and play! Perfect for classroom teachers, home learners, and individuals alike!
The descriptions below will tell you what to expect from each activity, so that you can choose the one that’s right for you and your students, or for personal exploration. We’ve designed these activities to be open-ended and appropriate for a wide range of learning levels. All resources are also available in formats that are more accessible for screen-readers upon request.
|Chapter in Video
|‘What do you mean by that saying?’
This activity invites personal responses to the ideas behind some of Shakespeare’s most common sayings, or aphorisms. For a fun flashcard version with an expanded list of quotes, click here.
Shakespeare’s language is packed with vivid images. This activity introduces the idea of imagery and lets students explore and interpret a variety of images from Shakespeare’s plays.
|The Shakespeare Shuffle
One of the most challenging things about Shakespeare’s language is the unusual syntax. This activity empowers students to play with the word order in some iconic lines, helping them to understand and appreciate the power of syntax.
|Speak the Speech: O for a muse of fire
This activity breaks down the opening Chorus speech from Henry the Fifth, supporting students’ engagement with the details of Shakespeare’s language.
|Speak the Speech: How happy some o’er other some can be
This activity is a deep dive into Helena’s first monologue from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It breaks down the thoughts, defines new terms, and offers questions for personal reflection.
|Love & Friendship
|Insults & Exalts
Sometimes it’s fun to hurl insults at one another, as long as it’s playful and we all agree we don’t mean it. Shakespeare’s plays include creative, poetic, and often-ridiculous insults. Here we provide lists of playful, expressive words to both insult and exalt each other.
|Love & Friendship
|‘We shall remain in friendship’
Shakespeare’s plays offer many ways to explore friendship. In this activity, participants collaborate with one another to recreate a brief scene and see how both the scene and act of collaboration resonate for them.
|Love & Friendship
|‘Know you the character?’
More than a thousand different characters appear in Shakespeare’s three dozen plays. Some have power. Some face challenges. Some fall in love. Some are magical. To give you a taste, here are a few of the characters that are featured in A Shakesperience along with some of the things they say.
|Characters & Emotions
|‘Speak what we feel’
This activity explores your own emotional responses to lines from a variety of Shakespeare’s plays. For the flashcard version with an expanded list of quotes, click here.
|Characters & Emotions
|Speak the Speech: But soft, what light
In this deep dive into Romeo’s most famous speech, we break down the thoughts, define new words, and invite students to discover how the speech resonates for them.
|‘Speak freely what you think’
Many of Shakespeare’s characters face obstacles to speaking freely, while others talk specifically about how important it is to express yourself. In this short activity students can explore the difference for themselves.
|‘Not an easy matter’
In this activity we look at two speeches from Henry the Fifth with sharply contrasting attitudes towards war.
|Speak the Speech: What a piece of work…
This activity looks at Hamlet’s most famous prose speech. In addition to breaking down the thoughts and defining new terms, it asks about Hamlet’s emotional state with care and compassion.
|‘To truths translated’
Over the years, Shakespeare’s plays have been translated into more than 100 different languages. These translations have been performed, published in books, and put on film. This activity offers perspectives on translation and opportunities to practice it for yourself.
|Rethinking & Reimagining
|A bard among many
We don’t think of Shakespeare as “The Bard,” as if he were the only poet / storyteller worth paying attention to. Instead, we think of him as a bard among many. In this activity we offer a brief list of some other great poet / storytellers and provide activities to explore the storytellers in all our lives.
|Rethinking & Reimagining
As a theatre artist, I’ve always thought of Shakespeare’s plays as opportunities rather than entities. I look at a script and see infinite possibilities: where will it be set? how will it be cast? how will we connect with the audience? what experience will we share? how will this resonate?
As an educator, I understand how this approach changes everything as we introduce people to Shakespeare. For too long students and teachers alike have been intimidated by Shakespeare, under pressure to somehow ‘get it right’. Too often Shakespeare is introduced as a cultural icon, treated as the epitome of learning and academic worth. This creates an ideal that’s impossible to live up to, for both teachers and students.
A Shakesperience provides an alternative introduction to Shakespeare that restores a sense of opportunity and possibility to learning about Shakespeare’s plays and poems. Rather than focusing on traditional understanding or appreciation, we celebrate the many and varied ways Shakespeare might resonate for us today. The piece intercuts short passages of text with ideas, insights, and brief anecdotes presented in a relaxed, accessible, playful way.
The video and its companion curriculum challenge assumptions and defy traditions. It welcomes curiosity, prioritizes questions, and celebrates individual interpretation. It’s impossible to get something right (or wrong) if it’s all about how you interpret it. And interpretation is what brings life to a Shakespeare play, transforming it from an old text to a vibrant, contemporary work of art.
The underlying philosophy of A Shakesperience aligns with the mission of Bard Education: to inspire community. We do this by listening to and learning from one another. We do this by celebrating individuality while nurturing compassion and collaboration. We do this by holding Shakespeare up not as a beacon of light or truth, but as a mirror through which we can see ourselves reflected, in all our infinite variety. We believe the nuances of Shakespeare’s language open the mind, the complexity of his characters opens the heart, and the expansiveness of the stories inspires the imagination.
As a theatre artist, I’m moved, inspired, and grateful for the incredible contributions of the many collaborators on this project. I’m excited about what we’ve created together and eager to share it with you. As an educator, I recognize that it’s only the beginning. I hope this introduction acts as a catalyst, inspiring questions, ideas, and interpretations I could never imagine. I can’t wait to discover where you take this and to learn more from you.
– Mary Hartman, Director of Education
Cast & Creative Team
Dean Paul GibsonDirector
Dean Paul Gibson
Jennifer StewartStage Manager
Jenny KimApprentice Stage Manager / COVID Safety Monitor
Apprentice Stage Manager / COVID Safety Monitor
Gerald KingLighting Designer
Carmen AlatorreCostume Design Mentor
Costume Design Mentor
Melicia ZainiCostume Designer
Melissa McCowellCostume Designer
Ryan CormackSet & Prop Designer
Set & Prop Designer
Ben ElliottSound Designer / Composer
Sound Designer / Composer
Ken BurkeVideographer & Switcher
Videographer & Switcher
Marvin AguilarCamera Operator & Editor
Camera Operator & Editor