Shakespeare in an Age of Visual Culture  
   
SHARING SHAKESPEARE: AN ACADEMICS ADVENTURES WITH THE ATLANTA SHAKESPEARE COMPANY
Gretchen Schulz

I'm an academic, not an artist. But because I teach literature, I'm an academic more appreciative of the differences and consequent tensions between academics and artists than many academics are. And because I teach drama (and, specifically, Shakespeare) more often than anything else, I am particularly appreciative of the differences and tensions between literature and drama, text-on-a-printed-page and text-in-performance, not to mention those between live performance and that available on film or video. Like most of us teaching drama, I've worked for years developing techniques that allow me to teach drama (and, specifically, Shakespeare) as something other than literature, mere text-on-a-printed-page, deserving of something other than mere academic analysis. Others who have fought the same good fight will understand that nothing has helped me (and my students) more than the happy appearance upon the local scene of the Atlanta Shakespeare Company.

This fine, small-but-thriving non-profit theater company has been doing Shakespeare in Atlanta for some fifteen years now (and doing it in a funky reproduction of an Elizabethan tavern, right downtown on Peachtree Street, for the last ten of those fifteen years). From the start, I seized the opportunity to take my students to see the four, five, even six productions the company might manage to mount in the months of the school year alone. After all, I knew: there's no better way to study the plays (and enjoy the plays) than to see the plays. And it wasn't long before I began to assist the company in its efforts to attract other teachers and students to see the plays, as well.

First as a member (and sometime Chair) of the Board and then as the Resident Scholar of the company, I have helped plan and implement educational outreach to the high school, college, and university populations of the greater Atlanta metropolitan area. In particular, I have prepared Study Guides for distribution to teachers and students who attend the plays—substantial documents, usually running 8,000 to 10,000 words, including a synopsis of and commentary on the action of the play and topics for research, topics for discussion, and other play-related activities (like suggestions for viewing, suggestions for listening, suggestions for reading, and suggestions for games and other kinds of creative fun).

I am proud of these Guides—informed (as they are) by scholarship and also informed (indeed, transformed) by extensive experience of the plays in production. But I'd like to do more for my constituency—more with the process which issues in production (observations of rehearsal, for instance, and discussions with actors and production personnel), more with complements to live production (versions of a play on film or video, for purposes of comparison and contrast), and more with materials available on-line (including my own, our own materials). I think I can thereby become an even better liaison between classrooms in my region and a theater company—between academics and artists, literature and drama, text and performance. And as you might imagine, much of what I've learned in the Folger Seminar on "Shakespeare in an Age of Visual Culture" is going to help me become and be just that. My deepest thanks to Bruce Smith and all of the other Seminar participants.


Of Bears and Chairs and Empty Space
Visualizing the Material Culture of Shakespeare's London
Staging the Self: Theatrical Performance and Identity in Early Modern England
Implied Action and Renaissance Play Text
Othello After O.J.: A Photo Negative Image
Sharing Shakespeare: An Academic's Adventures with the Atlanta Shakespeare Company

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