By Corinna Rezzelle
Looking for Shakespeare (LFS) has been one of the most self-reflective experiences of my graduate studies thus far. Now, it is work. It is a lot of work. It’s early-mornings-with-no-coffee-and–so-much-to-do kind of work, but it is such a great experience that I would recommend every grad student in the Educational Theatre program to tackle.
This summer we did Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. How fun, right? Shipwrecks, mistaken identities, over the top-ness in general. It was glorious fun! On top of the already wacky script, we added another layer: we set everything in the early 20th century fit with a Vaudevillian flair and several classic songs. Yes. We embarked on “Twelfth Night: The Vaudevillian Musical” in only 4-weeks. How we did it? I don’t know. Looking back, I am in awe of all that we accomplished in such a short period of time. Our group (grad students and high-schoolers a like) were such a dedicated and hardworking group, we probably could have accomplished anything.
It just hit me that some of you all might not have an idea of how LFS works. So I thought I’d tell you a little bit about the process. Within the class, you get firsthand experience guiding high school students through the wonders of acting in a Shakespearian play. Like I mentioned earlier, all of this happens in a month. Within that month, you are assigned to a particular group of students, of whom you work with primarily the entire time that you are in LFS. While you work with the teens, you are able to do your own bit of directing all while learning from your fellow grad students and the key instructor. We also even had the opportunity to teach our own workshops for the students. Stage Combat, Improvisation, Musical Theatre, and Auditions were just some of the topics that we covered in our grad student led workshops.
In the session that I took, Jonathan Jones was our key professor. He was truly a great life raft, mentor, and such a wonderful professor throughout the process. He gave us grad students the support that we needed to feel confident enough to let our voices be heard when we had blocking ideas or suggestions for the students; however, he also gave us the right balance of guidance to help lead us to find new ideas and discover other methods of teaching.
Though there were many “ah ha!” moments for me during LFS, what meant the most was getting to work with other theatre educators. The summers are such a fun time at NYU because it is filled with students in the summer-only program (of which I am enrolled in). The summer-only students are a great mix of New York residents and other theatre teachers that come from all over the country. I hail from Georgia; there were several Floridians, a Michigander, and even someone from Canada! It’s so rewarding to meet other theatre teachers that “think like me”! Getting to learn different techniques, new games, and build a brand new support system of teachers that I can call friends made this summer such a great experience.
Of course, now that the summer is over and the school year has once yet begun, still I find myself going back to the huge stack of notes that I took during the LFS process and trying new techniques that I learned in my own classroom. I would not give up the LFS experience for anything in the world and would love to embark on it again!