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8th Grade Taming of the Shrew Day / TBD
For three weeks, eighth grade English classes learn about William Shakespeare and his early comedy, The Taming of the Shrew. The play is broken into seventeen scenes, and each English class (plus one drama class) takes one scene to work on during class time. Students either act in the scene – complete with costumes by sewing/foods teacher, Donna Collier – or help to direct it. Language learners and special needs students will also be acting in the student performance of The Taming of the Shrew. The complex play, in which a domineering gentleman “tames” a shrewish (read: wild) woman, is also an opportunity for teachers to discuss how the roles of men and women have changed over the centuries. Although the play has been called misogynistic by a few critics, Kate, the shrew, delivers the most powerful lines of the play: “My tongue will tell the anger of my heart, or else my heart, concealing it, will break. I will be free as I please in words.” Students are better for learning the words of William Shakespeare.
Shrew Day is a full day for all eighth graders at Muir. In the morning, the students watch an abbreviated, professional production of The Shrew, produced by Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum, a professional theatre troupe based in Topanga Canyon. Then, fifteen actors from the same company will lead groups in various Shakespeare-related workshops, including jousting, juggling, scansion, Elizabethan song and dance, and comic characterizations. Each student will attend three workshops, which are active and enjoyed by students and supervising teachers alike. After lunch, the student version of The Taming of the Shrew begins. Students have a blast speaking the words of “The Bard” and seeing their friends dressed up in Elizabethan garb.
Not only are several PTA parents backstage helping students get into their costumes, the John Muir PTA supplies the funds for bringing in the Will Geer actors and teaching artists.
The eighth grade English teachers at Muir are proud that the thousands of students who have gone through our school over the past nine years have had a positive first experience with Shakespeare. The Taming of the Shrew is successful at Muir because the only way to truly appreciate and understand the greatest English playwright is to “speak the speech…trippingly on the tongue,” as Hamlet, from another Shakespearean classic, once said.
Ted DeVirgilis Rod Rothacher Justin Riner Steven Moos Stephen James