Best of the Week 2019-2020: Excellence in College Prep
ST. ED'S ENGLISH DEPARTMENT WELCOMES GREAT LAKES THEATER COMPANY FOR WEEK-LONG OTHELLO WORKSHOP
This week, St. Ed's English Department welcomed actors from Great Lakes Theater, northeast Ohio's professional classic theater company, to engage in a week-long workshop with sophomore English students as they read Othello. The workshop allowed students to work with local actors three to four times throughout the week to learn different acting techniques and skills, read through and act out scenes among their peers, and reinterpret the dialogue to understand it with a more modern twist. "This opportunity has allowed my students to dive headfirst into the performance aspect of Othello," says English teacher Mrs. Ashley Ventura. "In the English classroom, we often ask students to read or observe a play, but this experience allows the students to look at Shakespeare's play through a different lens as an actor. Some concepts in Othello are just explained better when they are performed personally, not just from observing the scenes. I feel as though this experience gives the students a better understanding of character motivation, especially Iago's jealousy towards Cassio and Othello. Word choice is always helpful to figure out how characters feel about one another, but actually stepping into the shoes of the characters and performing those feelings provides a deeper understanding of how these characters feel and open the door to discuss why they feel that way."
Students participated in exercises that challenged their interpretations of the literature while also encouraging them to get in touch with their personal views on trust, judgments, and what they believe in which connected to underlying themes of Othello. Additionally, students watched actors perform scenes from the play to get a firsthand experience of professional theater and how literature can be understood in a different manner being acted out rather than simply read.
"There is a lot of intentionality and discussion about the performative aspects of the play which creates meaning with the story and illustrates key parts of the text," says Mrs. Ventura. "Over the course of this week, my students have learned to stage fight, rehearsed key scenes of the play, and developed a deeper understanding of Shakespeare's characters, their motivations, and actions. I believe this experience is a reflection of St. Ed's strive for excellence because we aspire for innovative thinkers, and the best innovators are ones that can escape the confines of their own mind and experiences and step into the world of someone else to gain a better understanding of their experiences, needs, desires, and motivation to create something that will change our world."