You’re probably familiar with the dire statistics on California’s funding for arts education: The 2009 state budget cut funding for K–12 students by $2.5 million, or $400 per student; a 2007 study by SRI International showed that 96% of California middle schools and 72% of high schools fail to offer standards-aligned courses of study in all four arts disciplines*, thus failing to meet state education goals.
What you may not be familiar with is the many ways that Cal Shakes addresses the gaps left by the government, including Summer Shakespeare Conservatories, Student Discovery Matinees, after-school programs, and classroom residencies. This time of year, our teaching artists are busy partnering with classroom teachers all over the Bay Area to bring the arts and the classics to a wide variety of fall residencies.
At EC Reems Academy in East Oakland, Teaching Artists Emily Morrison and Marissa Wolf are working with four classroom teachers to study Much Ado About Nothing. Last year’s residency took place in two eighth-grade classrooms; this fall sees an expansion to two seventh-grade classes, bringing the total number of EC Reems residency students to 74. Each grade is studying a different group of scenes— including the big dance scene, for which the older kids are choosing the music. “Marissa and I collaborated from the start,” says Emily, also Cal Shakes’ Artistic Learning Programs Manager, “selecting a variety of scenes for each grade level to work on. Now that we are putting the groups back together for the culminating showcase, the kids get a greater sense of the play as a whole.”
Also studying Much Ado are the four fifth-grade classes at Fruitvale Elementary, where Teaching Artist Laura Lowry worked so well with fourth-grade teacher Maureen Whelan last year that Whelan advocated successfully to include her younger class again this time around; and all five seventh-grade classes at Charlotte Wood Middle School in Danville, where Cal Shakes Associate Artist Clive Worsley is continuing his five-year partnership with teachers Linda Roshay and Kathleen McCabe.
Another longstanding residency relationship is that of Teaching Artist Norman Gee and Oakland High School teacher Mike Jones, who are partnering for the fifth time this year. Jones’ two ninth-grade classes are studying Romeo and Juliet this fall. In addition, Cal Shakes is expanding its activities to include the Environmental Science Academy (ESA), a smaller learning community within Oakland High, whose high-achieving students follow a common academic program emphasizing academics and careers in environmental science. A Cal Shakes teaching artist, working with ESA’s cofounder Katherine Noonan, will guide the school’s tenth-grade English and History students through curriculum based on Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, focusing on literary merits, California history, and love of the land.
At Oakland Technical High School—our newest residency partner, born out of Jessa Brie Berkner’s Advanced Drama students’ international success with Hamlet: Blood in the Brain—a Cal Shakes teaching artist will partner with Berkner’s ninth-grade English/Drama class to investigate Walter Dean Myers’ young adult novel Fallen Angels. The students will use dramatization as one way to explore the book’s themes of war, human rights, and race relations.
16 classrooms in all. Just one way in which Cal Shakes invests in the next generation of Californians by providing in-depth, far-reaching creative educational opportunities.
* Visual arts, music, dance, and theater.