Artistic Learning: our teachers are students, too

We nurture a culture of learning where we are both teacher and student.

All of our teaching artists are theater professionals with a passion for education. Our two-year professional development initiative funded by the Clarence E. Heller Charitable Trust—the first we are aware of in the Bay Area—offered paid trainings in Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion; Childhood Development; Working with Students on the Autism Spectrum; Lesson Planning; and several classes on ways to teach Shakespeare to age groups ranging from elementary school through high school.

The reason we make this investment is partly to do with our unique approach to bringing theater into schools: our Teaching Artists partner with teachers to integrate theater-making and learning about a Shakespeare play right in the classroom. This way every student—even those who would never consider signing up for a Theater class—have the opportunity to develop their own creative voice. Every year we get comments from students remarking on their initial reluctance at the beginning of the process and their immense enjoyment by the end. So, we ask a lot more of our teaching artists, and we provide them with more support in navigating the sometimes challenging environments they encounter in classrooms.

Last month we hosted our final training of the two-year initiative. After attending previous rounds of training over the past few years, teaching artists requested one with a hands-on focus, so we partnered with Circle Up Education, an organization whose primary focus is Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Training for Classroom Teachers. The five-hour training was extremely well received by our Teaching Artists:

“I learned a tremendous amount from the training that I will be able to apply immediately in the classroom!”

“Training with Cal Shakes is always a reminder of the fierce and compassionate family of teaching artists in our network. It almost doesn’t matter what we’ve gathered to learn; we resonate and wriggle; we inspire one another. But the diversity and inclusion sessions this year have felt especially visceral and relevant to our work with youth. I think that each of us is always hoping that maybe it’s now; maybe this will be the generation that grows up where Shakespeare belongs to every body in every community. Maybe we get to be on the foundation floor—dug into the dirt of that rebuilding work.”   

“More trainings like this please!”

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Developing Self-Awareness & Relationship Building Practices–Enhancing Teaching & Learning in Diverse Classroom Communities was developed with the support of the Clarence E. Heller Charitable Trust as the final session of a two-year initiative funded by the Trust that has training our entire cadre of Teaching Artists.

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black odyssey Student Night

Cal Shakes received an overwhelming and positive response from local educators who had seen black odyssey—teachers who then inquired about Student Matinees, who wanted copies of the script to teach in their own class, and those who just wanted to find a way to share this play with their students. Jessica Hom, an English teacher at Aspire College Prep, told us: “When I saw black odyssey on my own, I knew right away that I wanted my students to see the show. The play shows complex Black characters finding strength in the resilience of their ancestors. It gives my students a chance to see representations of their own community on stage, and does so with a lot of humor, music, and joy.”

We got so many inquiries, in fact, that we added special programming, including an Interactive Study Guide (usually created for our Shakespeare plays to accompany our Student Discovery Matinees) and a Student Night. Over 100 young people and their chaperones joined us on August 29 from Diablo Valley College, Richmond College Prep, Skyline High, Carondolet High, Black Diamond High, Oakland Tech, Aspire College Prep, and Boy Scout Troop 409. black odyssey dramaturg Lisa Evans led a pre-show discussion with activities and storytelling, engaging over 60 students before the show.

Lisa Evans and students before black odyssey; photo by Jay Yamada.

The evening had “enormous impact on my students!” shares Zia Grossman-Vendrillo of Richmond College Prep. “For some of them this was the first play they had ever seen and now I think the bar is set too high! They really enjoyed it and seemed to follow along very well. It was also wonderful to have some of the students attend with their parents—I think it was a really special night for them. I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to take my students of color to see a play with artists of color performing such an incredible piece with such a resonant message.”

Lisa Evans and students before black odyssey; photo by Jay Yamada.

Heidi Goen-Salter, of Diablo Valley College’s Umoja Program, said of the evening, “It had a powerful impact. The students absolutely loved it. They’ve been talking about it since then—remembering scenes and lines, asking about how to get involved with something similar, talking about taking drama classes, etc. And there was definitely a bonding that happened as well since the students were from several different cohorts and didn’t all know each other beforehand. But after breaking bread together, sharing ideas in the pre-show talk, shivering under rented blankets, experiencing the marvelous performance, and crowding into each others’ cars afterwards—we’re bonded!”

Hom’s students also loved it. “At intermission, one of my students was simply distraught. I asked him what was wrong, and he said he couldn’t believe it was over. When I told him that it was only intermission, and that we had another act to go, he was so happy that he started jumping around. I also know that my students really connected to the show emotionally; I could hear them laughing, and affirming, and even crying at the end.”

Students at black odyssey.

“My students kept on talking about how relevant the work was to them,” said Ena Dallas from Oakland Tech. “They communicated to me that seeing such seasoned actors perform amazing story telling based in African-American history was life-changing for them.”

Artistic Learning programs such as this are not possible without significant help from donors, many of whom are audience members who give small amounts after every show. Every teacher we spoke to confirmed that they would not have been able to bring their students without subsidized tickets—we offer over 5,000 free or deeply discounted tickets every season. “Thank you and thank all the generous donors who made those tickets affordable, says Goen-Salter. “When I first investigated and saw tickets in the $50-$70 range, I didn’t go any further since I knew we couldn’t afford that price. But your willingness to work with us…made all the difference!”‘

If ensuring that students have this kind of access to theater is important to you, you can play a large role in helping. We’ve already raised almost 90% of our goal for the year, with only $10,000 left to go. Help us get there!

 

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A Day in the Life

Stephanie Ann Foster, one of our premiere teaching artists, reflects on a day at camp. Stephanie Ann has been involved with Cal Shakes Artistic Learning since 2014, working in schools, leading professional development workshops for our teaching artists and classroom teachers, and as Oakland’s Conservatory Coordinator in 2015 and 2016. Photos below: 2016 Oakland Conservatory, by Stephanie Ann Foster.


“How do we do this?” “TOGETHER!”

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Stephanie Ann Foster (and baby Quinn) with Oakland Conservatory kids, 2016.

The opening ritual of conservatory, our morning assembly, is audible all the way out to the street. We dance, we vote on creative ideas for costume days (Dr. Who, the students assure me, is quite the Shakespeare corollary). We redistribute dropped jackets and water bottles—the joyfully flung detritus of young actors who have put all their concentration into combat, improv, and the history class ghost stories that trickle out of Shakespeare’s plays when you poke at them with your (required) pencils.

2016_Oak4_byStephanie_brainstorming
We come here to try on new selves, and to recognize the pieces of ourselves in others. We come here to break apart texts, and maybe our whole selves while we’re at it.

Then we rebuild.

2016_oak4_byStephanie_circlesticks

Together.

2017 Conservatories are on sale now. For more information and to register, click here. 

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Artistic Learning: Inside and Out

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20161121_105541Cal Shakes’ teaching artists not only teach to students around the Bay Area—they learn how to be better teachers themselves. We strive to create a team of teaching artists that are culturally competent and well equipped to encounter the populations of students we serve, we hold trainings around the following issues/topics:

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
Teaching Children on the Autism Spectrum
Child Development and Psychology
Teaching Shakespeare to Elementary and early Middle School students
Teaching Shakespeare to upper Middle and High School students

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20161121_123850According to our teaching artists, the training:

“…really put into perspective a lot of tactics I had already been using in my teaching and helped show me the mechanics of the methods.”

“…[provided] learning techniques to create equitable classroom environments. Thank you for this training.”

“…[gave me] SO MUCH insight into the Autism Spectrum. The trainer made the content very accessible and hands on.”

“…provided a safe space in which to re-assess my teaching approaches. I really appreciate the excellent trainings.”

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We are so proud of our teaching artists’ continual dedication to expanding their knowledge and skills with kids in classrooms and in our Summer Conservatories! Artistic Learning professional development and mentorship programs are part of a two-year initiative funded by the Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation.

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Othello: an interview with Eric Ting

Recently our Artistic Learning department sat down with Eric Ting to discuss our upcoming production of Othello. Eric’s Cal Shakes directorial debut begins performances September 14.

Artistic Learning: How will you stage this play to be relevant to the current cultural dialogues about racial injustice and identity?  Will you use a modern setting?

Eric Ting: We’re imagining our audience sharing the space with a company of modern day actors who investigate/interrogate the classical story of Shakespeare’s Othello through a contemporary lens, trying to understand how this problem play lives as a reflection of some of the challenges we face in American society today.

AL: Directors must frequently choose a specific focus from such a large and complex play.  Are you coming at it as a domestic tragedy, a political firestorm, an examination of psychological manipulation–what’s the core idea you want to illustrate to the fullest in this production?

ET: All of the above. Religion is certainly surfaced in our choice to reflect Othello as a Muslim—though even that identity is sublimated in this story (because when we encounter Othello he has “converted to Christianity” we think to better assimilate into Venetian society). Politics exist not so much as a manifestation of the war with the Ottomites (like much of the wars the US fights today, that war is backgrounded to the more domestic concerns of the drama); but rather we will be exploring the presence of a political figure like Donald Trump and asking how that injection of volatile political rhetoric might pave the way for more manifest examples of xenophobia, releasing years of pent up race-hatred (i.e.: Iago). Lastly, Othello is a play about two marriages, a domestic tragedy writ large about the daily battles wrought “in the name of love”—love of God, love of Country, love of each other.

AL: How are you directing the actors to handle the language in this play?  The language sometimes floats in eloquent verse, and sometimes explodes in very direct insults that might be very offensive if said to someone today.  What does it take to have an actor move between these ways of speaking, and how do you want the audience to hear and understand these different expressions?

ET: My impulse is always to play against the poetry of Shakespeare’s language. The words themselves elevate his plays to soaring heights, but when actors indulge in that poetry it often sends the plays into a more melodramatic space. He wrote in blank verse, and as such, his writing is all the more remarkable for its construction—vivid, honest language held to a rigorous form. It’s that pursuit of surfacing the familiar, the banal, the human in Shakespeare’s plays that also—I believe—demand that we not try to censor the very real prejudices that have existed across time, from Shakespeare’s Venice to our communities today.

AL: Is there any comic relief in this play?  Should there be?

ET: Yes. And absolutely. Comedy accentuates tragedy, like salt with chocolate. Certainly there’s a lovely scene that we begin with: two men, ugly drunk, commiserating late one night about the unfairness of the world. But also: Shakespeare writes into the play a “CLOWN” character that, to my eyes, is not particularly funny (HA!). So we’ve made a production choice to replace those clown scenes with a series of jokes—the sort of jokes that accentuate our society’s treatment of outsiders, the sort of humor that “others” us.

AL: Okay, the ultimate question–are you more drawn to Othello, or Iago? Why?

ET: Mmmm. Good Question. I think the one doesn’t exist without the other, no? It’s almost biblical, the conflict between these two—like Cain and Abel.

Tickets to Othello are available here.
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A Day at Shakespeare Summer Camp

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Stephanie Ann Foster, our Oakland Conservatory Coordinator, reflects on a day at camp.

“How do we do this?” “TOGETHER!”

The opening ritual of conservatory, our morning assembly, is audible all the way out to the street. We dance, we vote on creative ideas for costume days (Dr. Who, the students assure me, is quite the Shakespeare corollary). We redistribute dropped jackets and water bottles—the joyfully flung detritus of young actors who have put all their concentration into combat, improv, and the history class ghost stories that trickle out of Shakespeare’s plays when you poke at them with your (required) pencils.

We come here to try on new selves, and to recognize the pieces of ourselves in others. We come here to break apart texts, and maybe our whole selves while we’re at it.

Then we rebuild.

Together.

Registration is now available for our Summer Shakespeare Conservatories. Click here for more information.

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Cal Shakes Conservatory Performances 2014

It’s that time of year again, when Cal Shakes Conservatory students, kids and teens, put together all they’ve learned from their Teaching Artists to create a wonderful production. Come out and support our campers by coming to see their shows on July 25th and 26th, in Orinda and Oakland. All the information you need is on the flyers below.

Click here to learn more about Cal Shakes’ work in schools.

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Three ways to participate in #GivingTuesday

We have a day for giving thanks. We have two for getting deals. This year we are joining with nonprofits around the world to help create #GivingTuesday: A new day for giving back. On Tuesday December 3, 2013, global charities, families, businesses, community centers, students and more will come together to create #GivingTuesday.

#GivingTuesday It’s a simple idea. Just find a way for your family, your community, your company or your organization to come together to give back. Then tell everyone you can about how you are giving. Be a part of a national celebration of our great tradition of generosity.

On December 3, you can give to Cal Shakes in more ways than one.

  1. CLICK TO GIVE NOWMoney – Make a difference by making a donation. We can’t do what we do without you. Read a letter from a grateful teacher here; view photos of this year’s arts, education, and community efforts here.
  2. Volunteer Sign up to give your time and energy, and get inside the workings of a nonprofit theater (we’re lots of fun to work with).
  3. In-kind – We need stuff! Check out our wish list below—you may find stuff to give that reduces our costs, freeing up resources for our arts and education programming. If you wish to donate something on our wish list, please contact Annual Fund Manager Ian Larue at 510.899.4907 or ilarue@calshakes.org.

Give once, twice, or three times. Whatever you contribute now will make more theater possible for more people in the Bay Area—including you. And be sure to tweet or post about it when you to, with the hash tag #GivingTuesday. Thank you!

ITEM NEEDED AMOUNT NOTES
Multi-purpose hand truck 1 five-in-one, industrial strength
Folding tables 6  six feet long, lightweight, and sturdy
Paper cutter 1
Cases of water 10 low- or no-sodium
Cases of nonalcoholic beverages 5 sparkling cider
Table linens 4 to fit six-, eight- or ten-foot tables
Button making supplies 1.5” button-maker supplies: pinbacks, shells, and mylar
Fabric softeners 5 large boxes Bounce brand preferred
Benadryl 5 boxes
Music player 1 Bluetooth-enabled, or the kind to plug your device into
Dishwasher 1
Sodastream or other sparkling water maker 1
Framing services 16 11″x 17″
Green Fleece Blankets 50 50″x60″ dark green fleece
Home Depot gift cards any any denomination
Reams of white copy paper any 8.5″x 11″ plain paper; recycled strongly preferred
First-class postage stamps any Forever stamps are best, please
Beads and buttons any For the costume shop
Office Max and Office Depot gift cards any any denomination; office supplies
Berkeley Bowl gift cards any denomination; food and drink for events
Visa gift cards
MasterCard gift cards
American Express gift cards
Discover gift cards
Disinfecting wipes 3 Clorox or any brand for cleaning desktops and telephones, etc.
Handheld video camera 1 Full-featured camcorder preferred; needs to have optical zoom, image stabilization, and firewire cable
Three-ring binders, one-inch 90 black or white; for rehearsal scripts
Three-ring binders, three-inch 10 D-ring, any color
Sunscreen 20 SPF 30 or higher, expiration no earlier than November 2014
Bug spray 15 Expiration no earlier than November 2014
Case of Ricola throat drops 4 Any flavor
Case of hot chocolate 6
Gatorade powder 12 Lemon-lime, big powder canisters preferred
Airjet hand dryer for bathrooms 2
Desk lamps 4 or 5
Picnic tables 6+
Clown noses 50+
Rubber bands 2 boxes
iPod speakers 2 speakers that attached directly to an iPhone or iPod
Noise makers 5 snare drum, maracas, xylephone
Balls 8 From tennis balls to soccer balls, anything will do.
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“This was the best field trip I’ve ever been on in my life. …We made Hermione come back to life.”

Actor Christopher Michael Rivera works the audience at a Student Discovery Matinee of A WINTER'S TALE;.

Actor Christopher Michael Rivera works the audience at a Student Discovery Matinee of A WINTER'S TALE;.

From: Ms. Maiuri

Sent: Thursday, October 03, 2013 8:11 PM

To: Clive Worsley

Subject: Thank you so much for everything (could you pass this on?)

Dear Director and Cast of A Winter’s Tale and the Cal Shakes Artistic Learning Team:

I got an email from a student after returning from Cal Shakes’ student matinee performance of A Winter’s Tale: “Dear Ms. Maiuri, This was the best field trip I’ve ever been on in my life.  Also, I’ve discovered that Grace and I have magical powers.  We made Hermione come back to life.  Love, Lisa”

I struggled for years as a teacher in Oakland before I realized that if you’re really honest with students and bring what you love right up to them and put it in their hands, they’ll love it right along with you. I don’t know if it’s the content or the honesty, but it works.

So we study Shakespeare because I love it—the rhythm and the description and the challenge of hearing a play that might be a struggle to understand. I love the slow reveal of the language and the experience of “settling in” when you suddenly realize every word is making sense. I pour my heart into bringing that to my students.

A student asks a question of the cast after a performance of A WINTER'S TALE.

A student asks a question of the cast after a performance of A WINTER'S TALE.

But after I drill and they sweat and we giggle over the plots, we come to Cal Shakes and they’re just mesmerized.  I look over and see kids light up at certain speeches—”It’s too hot, too hot!”—or realize when bits have been skipped or altered, or get quiet and rapt at a moving moment, and I can feel my heart swell and my throat catch.

And then, at the end, to have the actors all come out in hoodies and college t-shirts and sit on the edge of the stage and use real names and talk like real people is the real crux for me.  I can make my students memorize and understand Shakespeare but these artists showed them that it’s okay to stand up and perform in front of others, to cry and feel on stage, to balance football and literature (or even give football up, god forbid), and wear mascara with pride.  Thanks for that. And thanks to the fun and relatable directing and acting choices, they got a Paulina that sounds like their mom’s tough best friend, a steely speech from a jailed mother, a Polixenes that echoes the best and worst of their fathers, and a Leontes who descends into a powerful, believable frenzy that’s surprisingly similar to the throes of middle-school jealousy and spite.

I feel like I’m always making excuses not to write thank-you notes. But Cal Shakes is really special for us, and I thank you all for moving me today.

With gratitude,

Jana Maiuri
(Teacher, Edna Brewer Middle School)

See more highlights of her students’ experience with these photos from Cal Shakes’s 2013 Student Discovery Matinees.

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Summer Shakespeare Conservatory Wins Best Teen Camp

The nice folks over at Alameda magazine just published their “Best of 2013” issue, and we were thrilled to see our Summer Shakespeare Conservatory named Best Teen Camp! Thanks, Alameda, and congrats to all our fellow winners. Check them all out here.

Want to see what all the fuss is about? Come watch our wonderful campers show off what they’ve learned this summer during their culminating performances. Five-week Conservatory performances take place July 19 & 20 at Bentley Upper School, 1000 Happy Valley Rd., Lafayette. Three-week Conservatory performances take place July 26 at Holy Names High School, 4660 Harbord Dr., Oakland. Two-week Conservatory performances take place August 2 at Bentley.

Campers themselves have free entry to all performances, and camper families are entitled to two free all-day passes per day. Additional tickets are available for conservatory performances by calling 510.548.9666 or visiting our online box office.

Ticket Prices
Pre-Sale Adult: Two-week performances $8, three- and five-week $15
Pre-Sale Youth/Senior: Two-week performances $5, three- and five-week $10
Day-Of Adult: Two-week performances $10, three- and five-week $20
Day-Of Youth/Senior: Two-week performances $7, three- and five-week $15

Schedule of Performances
Five-week July 19 & 20 at Bentley Upper School
10–11am                       Romeo & Juliet, performed by the Merry Kinsmen
11:30–12:30pm           Two Gentleman of Verona, performed by the Noble Knaves
1:30–2:30pm               As You Like It, performed by the Riotous Knights
2:30–4pm                    Cast Party
5–6:30pm                    Romeo & Juliet, performed by the Queen’s Own

Three-week July 26 at Holy Names
10–10:30am                 Romeo & Juliet, performed by the Merry Kinsmen
11–11:30am                  Much Ado About Nothing, performed by the Noble Knaves
12:30–1pm                   A Winter’s Tale, performed by the Riotous Knights
1:30–2pm                     Twelfth Night, performed by the Queen’s Own
2–2:30pm                     Cast Party

Two-week August 2 at Bentley Upper School
10–10:30am                  A Midsummer Night’s Dream, performed by the Merry Kinsmen
11–11:30am                  Two Gentleman of Verona, performed by the Noble Knaves
12–12:30pm                  Romeo & Juliet, performed by the Royal Jousters
1–1:30pm                      Richard III, performed by the Riotous Knights
2–2:30pm                      Much Ado About Nothing, performed by the Fortune Artists
3–3:30pm                      A Winter’s Tale, performed by the Queen’s Own
3:30–4pm                      Cast Party

 

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