We were fortunate to be able to end off our summer, and start into a new school year by attending a free "in the park" performance of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew - one of my personal favorites of Shakespeare's plays.
As you can see from the costumes, the Montana Shakespeare in the Parks troupe gave the play a Wild West setting. They stuck to the original Elizabethan English (for the most part) though, and Kate was still delightfully shrewish...
...and, best of all, they left in the usually discarded bit, at the beginning, with Christopher Sly.
I was actually extremely happy to see the play set in the old American West, because it went right along with the impromptu Taming of the Shrew study we (the teens and I) had done in preparation for the play.
I wanted them to enjoy the experience of going to the play (you know - "the plays the thing" and all that), so I didn't dump them into a lot of heavy studies before we went. At the same time though, I wanted them to be familiar enough with the story, and comfortable enough with the language, that they would be able to understand the comedy, and maybe even love it as much as I do.
Up until this summer we've only touched on Shakespeare. Last fall we read some out of William Shakespeare's Star Wars by Ian Doescher, reader's theater style, and learned about iambic pentameter, and some theatrical devices, such as asides, that Shakespeare liked to use (a huge hit).
And, the teens, at various times have checked out and read some of the abridged versions of the plays in the Manga Shakespeare series. But, beyond that we haven't really done much with Shakespeare's plays or poetry. I've tried to get the children interested a few different times, but they were turned off by the language (tragic, I know), and the age of the plays.
This time though, I gave it a good running, by the seat of my pants type start.
First off I handed them my grandmother's old copy of the Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare (part of the What Every Child Should Know Library). Ours is an old volume (I read it myself in junior high), but newer printings can still be purchased.
Lamb's Tales are a fantastic introduction to Shakespeare for children (or reluctant teens). The plays are all summarized into easily read, short story form, but still capture the themes and much of the feel of the original plays.
Once my teens had a grasp of the general story we moved onto the actual play, first reading a summary of the entire play, and of each act, and then reviewing the character map, and glossary of the more difficult vocabulary from CliffsNotes...
...and then the play in Elizabethan and modern English (side by side on opposite pages) from No Fear Shakespeare. Honestly, I'm not crazy about the modern English version, but there are all kinds of little notes in the margins filling in background, and explaining customs, and details that you might normally just skim over without looking up.
As they became familiar with the play we watched the BBC performance of Taming of the Shrew, featuring John Cleese, on Amazon instant view (because who doesn't love John Cleese?).
And then, to gain a better understanding of the intricacies, and difficulties of the play for modern audiences, we watched "The Taming of the Shrew" episode of Shakespeare Uncovered, narrated by by Morgan Freeman, and interspersed with his own personal experience of playing the lead (opposite Tracey Ullman, no less) in a Shakespeare in the Park production set in - the old American West.
This particular episode focuses in on the abusive chauvinist vs. empowering feminist fires of the play, and does an excellent job exploring them.
By this point all three of my teens (T joined in part of reading, even though he is in college now, and no longer studying with us - not to let the girls have all the fun) were familiar with The Taming Shrew.
It was a quick (about one week) study, nothing like the fantastic "summer of Shakespeare" Claire has been posting about over at angelicscalliwags (you'll want to check out her posts if you haven't yet), but really built up an excitement in the house for going to see the play - which I am happy say, the teens enjoyed every bit as much as I did, despite a downright cold, gale force windy, forest fire smoke filled evening.
|Waiting for the play to start.|