William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream came to life recently in Sharon, Vt., when when twelve Dartmouth students directed fifth and sixth graders from Sharon Elementary School in an abridged version of the play. Thirty-five students from Martin Tewksbury and Janis Boulbol’s classes participated in the nine-week theater teaching residency. The Dartmouth Shakespeare Project was part of the spring term course Theater 10: Shakespeare in the Schools, taught by James Rice, senior lecturer in theater. The production was The Dartmouth Shakespeare Project’s sixth since 2003.
Anya Perret ’11, a government major from Burton, Wash., was one of the twelve student directors. “I learned huge amounts about schools, child development, and theater,” she says. “It was incredible to get a chance to teach in an alternative setting where we were able to make classroom concepts like vocabulary and literature into challenging but fun opportunities for kids to perform and express themselves.”
The Dartmouth Shakespeare Project’s curriculum is based on the outreach programs of Shakespeare & Company, a theater company and education group based in Lennox, Mass., of which Rice is a member. “The freedom and willingness of students to engage in these puzzling but somehow exciting words is the core of the Shakespeare & Company education programs,” he notes. “All teaching is done through a specific sequence of exercises that encourage free physical and vocal expression through play.”
“The sheer excitement of the students—undergraduate and elementary—is exhilarating,” he continues, “and makes the great effort worthwhile.” “Dartmouth students who have taken this course,” Rice says, “call it one of their most important opportunities at the College to collaborate, create, and contribute to a shared undertaking.”