Evolution of a Study Guide

Since starting work with the ASC in June of 2010, I’ve created Study Guides covering 19 of Shakespeare’s plays, along with our From Class to Cast guide to production. Each year’s new Study Guides typically cover the shows which are our Student Matinees at the Blackfriars Playhouse. These are usually major curriculum shows such as Romeo and Juliet or Hamlet, though not always, as my guide for The Two Gentlemen of Verona can attest. This year, however, all of our matinee shows are plays I’ve already created Study Guides for (Macbeth and The Comedy of Errors in the Fall, The Taming of the Shrew in the Actors’ Renaissance Season, and Hamlet and Much Ado about Nothing in the Spring). This has given me a few different wonderful opportunities.

IMG_1491First, I’m getting a chance to do a Version 2.0 on each of those guides. This process has been a revelation to me, since it’s a tangible representation of how my pedagogical thoughts have shifted and expanded over the past four years. Some of that has come from observation, some from things I’ve learned at conferences (our own Blackfriars Conference or others), and some of it has been simple trial and error. Working with teachers in our seminars has helped me see which activities take off like shining stars and which need a little extra boost to hit maximum efficacy. In the guide for The Comedy of Errors, for example, I’ve updated the section on the rhetorical device of stichomythia based on an activity that really fired everyone’s imaginations in a later year, when we were working in Much Ado about Nothing (see the picture at right — and if you’re curious what that’s about, join us Oct 3rd-5th for the Fall Seminar!).

Since updating the guides doesn’t take as long as writing one from scratch, however, it also frees me up to expand our offerings in new ways. By the Spring, I’ll have a Marlowe guide to add to our Shakespearean shelf, focusing mostly on Doctor Faustus, to help teachers who look at these two early modern heavyweights in conjunction with each other. I’m eager to find out where the similarities and differences will lie in building a guide for Kit instead of Will.

I’m also starting work on something in an entirely new format: a scansion workbook. This is in early stages yet, but I’m excited to develop it. I’m hoping to create a hands-on, step-by-step guide to the mechanics of metrics and their application for actors. This guide was partly inspired by watching our actors in their tablework rehearsals this summer. Since we so strongly believe this is a tool that all students and actors of Shakespeare should have at their disposal, it makes sense to add a scansion-focused workbook to the resources we offer. If all goes well with that, next year I’ll build a similar workbook for rhetoric.

We’re also looking into ways to build more multimedia into our educational resources. Over the next year, the Education Department hopes to produce a series of short videos sharing exciting discoveries, tips and tricks, and demonstrations of activities.

One of the best things about Shakespeare, I think, is that you can never stop learning from the plays. Dr. Ralph has been teaching for forty years, and I still get to watch him make brand-new discoveries in the middle of workshops, when some nuance of rhetoric or staging strikes him in a way he’s never thought of before. It’s that energy that drives me when I’m building and rebuilding these Study Guides: the idea that however many discoveries I make, however many activities I create, I’ll never be done. There’s always something else to explore — and that’s the energy I most want to pass on to classrooms.

Summer/Fall 2014 Playhouse Insider: On Sale Now!

The seventh issue of the Playhouse Insider is now available at the Blackfriars Playhouse Box Office. Here’s a sneak peek at the articles within, exploring the shows of the 2014 Summer and Fall Seasons:SF14InsiderCover

  • What is it that most defines Cyrano de Bergerac? His panache. ASC Education Artist Natalia Razak explores “what it really means to live, love, and die without compromise.”
  • Jeremy Fiebig of the Shakespeare Standard and Sweet Tea Shakespeare examines characters as actors in Macbeth and Hamlet, with particular attention to how the titular men fit into or fight against their own stories.
  • Former ASC actor Luke Eddy, now teaching at the University of Central Oklahoma and at Oklahoma City University, discusses how playing Antipholus of Syracuse in the ASC’s 2008/9 touring troupe helped his own journey of self-discovery.
  • What makes Macbeth and other villains “break bad”? Benjamin Curns, a longtime ASC actor and fight choreographer who is now pursuing an MFA at UNC Chapel Hill, explores the nature of villainy in Shakespeare’s plays.
  • MBC student Sarah Martin discusses the rehearsal process behind the MLitt program’s 2012 production of Pericles, including the dramaturgical information on the play’s sources which contributed to the cast’s stylistic choices.
  • Bob Jones, who holds an MFA from Mary Baldwin and is pursuing a PhD at the University of Austin, discusses his experience directing Edward II at the Blackfriars Playhouse in 2008, focusing on the relationship between Edward and the audience.
  • What’s Shakespeare like at a re-creation of one of his other playhouses? Katherine Mayberry of Pigeon Creek Shakespeare shares experiences from actors and audiences at the Rose Theatre in Twin Lake, Michigan.
  • Did you know that our Director of College Prep Programs is also a champion of under-appreciated early modern plays? Kim Newton celebrates Fair Em, which had its North American premiere during this summer’s ASC Theatre Camp.
  • Last year, the ASC passed a major milestone: completing Shakespeare’s entire canon in its 25th year, and audience member Tim Hulsey has seen all thirty-eight plays at the Blackfriars Playhouse. Find out what keeps him coming back, season after season.

Pick up your copy of the Playhouse Insider at the Box Office for just $5 — a perfect companion to your playgoing experience. The issue not only contains the brilliant words of these contributors, but full-color photos from ASC productions, as well as from performances by MBC students and the ASC Theatre Camp, and from the Rose Theatre.

Podcast Archives: 2012

2012 Actors’ Renaissance Season

2012 Spring Season

2012 Summer and Fall Seasons

 

Podcast Archives: 2011

2011 Actors’ Renaissance Season

2011 Spring Season

2011 Summer and Fall Seasons

Podcast Archives: 2010

2010 Actors’ Renaissance Season

2010 Spring Season

2010 Summer and Fall Seasons

 

Podcast Archives: 2009

2009 Actors’ Renaissance Season

2009 Spring Season

2009 Summer and Fall Seasons

Podcast Archives: 2008

2008 Actors’ Renaissance Season

2008 Spring Season

2008 Summer and Fall Seasons

Podcast Archives: 2007

2007 Actors’ Renaissance Season

2007 Spring Season

2007 Summer and Fall Seasons

Podcast Archives: 2006

2006 Summer and Fall Seasons

ASC Theatre Camp by Numbers

The ASC Theatre Camp is in its 17th summer, and our first session of 2014 began yesterday. We’ve been counting down the days to camp with our ASC 38 Days / 38 Plays Challenge, during which campers and Blackfriars Playhouse patrons alike posted and shared quotes, photos, and music inspired by one Shakespeare play per day. Our Session 1 Challenge winner was Matt Gieseke and the runner-up was Rachel Hubble!

In the months leading up to camp, we spend hundreds of hours planning, preparing, and waiting with sheer excitement for the arrival of our campers. They come from all over the United States and beyond to work for three weeks, training, rehearsing, and preparing to perform the plays in each session. As you can imagine, we’ve been very busy preparing for both sessions. The best way to appreciate the joys of camp is to come and be a camper! If you’re not between the ages of 13 to 18, then you can still enjoy the campers’ free, public performances on July 13 and August 10 at the Blackfriars Playhouse. To give you some more insight into just how great the ASC Theatre Camp is, I’ve broken down some of our important camp numbers for you. Drum roll, please!

  • 2 camp sessions of 3 weeks each
  • 2 lectures with eminent Shakespeare scholars and professors
  • 4 field trips for fun in the summer sun
  • 5 amazing interns keeping us organized, and helping with dramaturgical research, costumes, and props
  • 5 plays, including Measure for Measure, The Tempest, Henry VI Part 3 (performed by two casts), All’s Well That Ends Well, and the Anonymous Fair Em
  • 6 directors, all of them with amazing talent and passion for Shakespeare
  • 10 counselors, many of whom are former campers
  • 12 performance master classes with ASC Actors and Education Artists
  • 19 US States represented by our campers, including:
    • California
    • Connecticut
    • Florida
    • Kentucky
    • Louisiana
    • Maryland
    • Massachusetts
    • Michigan
    • New York
    • North Carolina
    • Ohio
    • Pennsylvania
    • Texas
    • Utah
    • Virginia
    • West Virginia
    • Wisconsin
    • Wyoming, plus
    • Washington, DC, and 
    • Haiti.

AND

  • 74 campers campers aged 13-18, bravely working together and rehearsing for a total of 339 hours for all 6 shows.

These numbers doesn’t even include the many hours that campers will spend rehearsing and performing their own pre-show and songs, gaining college-prep experience in discussions and seminars, researching college programs with the help of our counselors, seeing performances at the Blackfriars Playhouse, observing rehearsals for our resident and touring troupe shows, participating in special events like our masquerade ball, and enjoying fireworks and s’mores on the Fourth of July!

These numbers can’t quite capture how much camp means to so many people, but one thing is certain: We are off to the start of an amazing summer filled with joy, friendship, and great theatre. You can follow along with updates and photographs all summer at the Camp Blog.

-Kim Newton