The Harrison High School Drama Program worked with THEATREWORKS to bring this interactive workshop to the entire 9th grade class. This workshop spent two days in each English class (totally four days) and in the two Drama classes. During this time, students worked with Romeo and Juliet and Julius Cesar as an introduction to Shakespeare, his words, and his relevancy. This included learning some history about Shakespeare, working with specific chunks of the texts, and instruction in stage combat. At the end of the two-day workshops, students would have choreographed a final fight sequence and character death.
This was an amazing experience to bring to 300 ninth grade students. Our school is predominately low-income with 100% of our students receiving free or reduced lunch services. However, we believe that there is no excuse for poor quality instruction, and that was proven by our capacity to bring a program like this to students with whom many have never experienced live theatre before.
As a result of this workshop, students were thoroughly prepared to start their Shakespeare unit. Many students remembered the exact lines they worked with from the workshop when we started reading Romeo and Juliet in class. The same can be said for the Drama students who were simultaneously reading Julius Cesar in their English classes. This workshop not only hit theatre standards for performance and character development, but it also aligned with English standards surrounding the use of textual evidence.
One of the challenges of this project was getting the English students to engage in theatre activities, but they quickly grew comfortable, which can largely be attributed to the environment created by the teaching artists. Overall, this was a highly supported event from students, teachers, administrators, and parents alike. This was something unique for students to participate in, and opened the world of Shakespeare to beyond just the texts.