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Scope and Approach

Teaching Shakespeare Institute 2024
Shakespeare: Othello and The Taming of the Shrew in Conversation

Scope and Approach

This year’s Institute brings together The Taming of the Shrew and Othello, Shakespeare’s signal treatments of gender and race. They are works that seem to pit anti-racism and feminism against each other, yet their explorations of mastery and subordination, love and malice, household government and civic power, and difference in relation to dominant culture, reveal a lot more about the intricacies of inequality when they are read together than when they are kept apart.

Studying these plays will provide participants with a strong orientation to the wider Shakespeare canon, since race and gender are a fundamental aspect of every work. It will also provide an opportunity to reckon with Shakespeare’s enduring influence on social systems that continue to construct and leverage identity as a force of polarizing difference.

Project Schedule and Assignments

The daily life of the Teaching Shakespeare Institute participant is a lot! Overall, the institute will be discovery-filled and rigorous as well as joyful and energizing. You can expect daily lectures from leading researchers to contextualize the plays; seminar meetings with research faculty to read and discuss each work closely; studio classes to explore the transformative effects of performing Shakespeare’s characters, and curricular workshops for knitting it all together into an inclusive and compelling pedagogy, the Folger Method. Days are long and full, and, because Shakespeare: The Taming of the Shrew and Othello in Conversation is only two weeks in length, there will be some evening work as well.

An important daylong field trip to Historic Jamestowne will give us a chance to explore the historic fort, museum, and archeological digs. Jamestowne was settled in 1607; Shakespeare probably wrote Shrew in 1590-1, and Othello in 1604. We’ll consider how England and what was to become America — and these two plays — provide context for one another, then and now.

By the end of the two-week institute, participants will design a lesson plan tailored for their classes and students that draw on their multi-disciplinary experience at the institute.

Who Are We?

The People:

Teaching Shakespeare 2024 participants will work with the following faculty and staff during their 2-weeks of discovery at the Folger:

Woman smiling, wearing a black turtleneck with white hair and glasses perched on her head.

Institute Director Dr. Peggy O’Brien is the Folger’s Director of Education. She founded the Folger’s Education Department as well as the Teaching Shakespeare Institute along with Professor Jeanne Roberts in 1984. Her career began with years teaching in a DC public high school English classroom and includes serving as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s SVP for Education and Children’s Programming, and leading community work as Chief of Family and Public Engagement for DC Public Schools. In addition to her deep experience as an NEH institute project director, she is a national leader in Shakespeare education, and is general editor of the five-volume series, The Folger Guides to Teaching Shakespeare, forthcoming from Simon and Schuster in 2024.

Head Scholar Dr. Ellen MacKay is associate professor of English and Chair of Theatre and Performance Studies (TAPS) at University of Chicago, where she teaches courses on Shakespeare, Renaissance Drama, Performance Historiography, and Theatre Theory. She has served as Head Scholar at the Teaching Shakespeare Institute since 2014. She has published articles in Theatre Survey, Shakespeare Survey, Shakespeare Yearbook, and Theatre History Studies, and in numerous edited volumes and disciplinary guides, including the forthcoming The Routledge Companion to Shakespeare and Religion.

Resident Scholar Dr. Kyle Grady is assistant professor in the English School for the Humanities at University of California at Irvine. He is currently at work on a book project focused on approaches to mixed race identity in early modern drama and culture, including in the work of Shakespeare. His research appears in the journals Early Modern Culture, New Literary History, Pedagogy, Shakespeare Studies, and Shakespeare Quarterly.

Performance Faculty Caleen Sinette Jennings is Professor of Theatre emerita at American University where she taught Acting, Voice & Speech, Acting Shakespeare, Playwriting, and academic courses in theatre. She received a Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Emerging Theatre for her work with The Welders Playwrights’ Collective, in addition to five Helen Hayes nominations for Outstanding New Play. She has been an Institute faculty member since 1994.

Mentor Teacher Noelle Cammon teaches English at Heritage High School in Menifee, CA. During her career, she has taught English in both middle and high school and to students from across a broad range of ability levels and cultures. She was a stand-out participant in the Folger NEH summer program in 2018, and soon after, at our invitation, became heavily involved in the work of Folger Education. Ms. Cammon is a contributor to The Folger Guides to Teaching Shakespeare (forthcoming from Simon and Schuster, 2024), authoring the 5-week unit plan on teaching Othello.

Mentor Teacher Dr. Deborah Gascon has spent the majority of her 27-year career teaching high school English at Dutch Fork High School, a public school near Columbia, SC. She too was a standout participant–in the Folger’s NEH summer program in 2012–and since then has served as important contributor to Folger education work. Dr. Gascon is also a contributing author to The Folger Guide to Teaching Romeo and Juliet. In addition, she has led a broad range of Folger courses and workshops, and has also been lead mentor teacher at Folger summer academies in 2015, 2017, and 2019.

Visiting Scholar Patricia Akhimie is the Folger’s director of scholarly programs. She is the editor of the Arden Othello (fourth series), a landmark edition and play within Shakespeare studies, and the forthcoming collection, The Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare and Race. She is also working on a monograph about race, gender, and editing early modern texts. She is co-editor, with Bernadette Andrea, of Travel and Travail: Early Modern Women, English Drama, and the Wider World (University of Nebraska Press 2019).

Visiting Scholar Ian Smith is professor of English and Richard H., Jr. ’60 and Joan K. Sell Chair in the Humanities at Lafayette College. He discovered Shakespeare while studying French classical theater at the University of Paris before completing his Ph.D. at Columbia University. Author of numerous scholarly articles involving Shakespeare’s preoccupation with race, he has published Race and Rhetoric in Renaissance England: Barbarian Errors and Black Shakespeare, which examines the racial blind spots of modern criticism in relation to Shakespeare’s pervasive interest in blackness and race.

Folger Staff Liam Dempsey is the Associate Director of Education at the Folger Shakespeare Library. He was a participant in the NEH summer program in 2021. Prior to his work at the Folger, Liam spent 6 years teaching middle and high school English in Maryland.

Folger Staff Katie Dvorak is Assistant Director, Education Operations. In this role she oversees the creation and implementation of numerous Folger Education projects. She is the project manager for the forthcoming The Folger Guide to Teaching Shakespeare book series. This will be the 5th time she has managed the preparations and operations for the Teaching Shakespeare Institute.

Folger Staff Auriel Haack is the administrative coordinator in the Education department.

The Collection

The Folger Shakespeare Library makes Shakespeare’s stories and the world in which he lived accessible. Anchored by the world’s largest Shakespeare collection, the Folger is a place where curiosity and creativity are embraced and conversation is always encouraged.

The Folger Shakespeare Library houses a vast collection of materials relating to both the early modern era in Europe and to William Shakespeare and the theater: over 160,000 printed books; 60,000 manuscripts; 90,000 prints, drawings, photographs, paintings, and other works of art; and a wealth of performance history, from a quarter of a million playbills to films, recordings, and stage costumes.

Our substantial renovation allows us to make available more collection items, more programming, and a deeper experience for teachers, students, visitors, audiences, and scholars.

Folger Education

The Folger is revolutionizing the way Shakespeare and complex texts are taught in classrooms, showing how the study of his work deepens knowledge and hones skills across key academic areas. The Folger is a leader in bringing students of all ability levels to close reading, which helps to build deep reading skills critical to student success. More than two million teachers and students each year benefit from workshops, lesson plans, online classes and field trips, the best-selling Folger Editions of Shakespeare’s plays and The Folger Guides to Teaching Shakespeare. As members of our flagship education program, Institute participants will join the heart of this exciting, rigorous work.