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The Tempest: A tale to cure deafness

Nick Mitchell and Decker Hadley pose with Caliban and Ariel after the show.

On the two-hour drive to Highpoint, NC, students in Jan Anderson’s and Anne Berryhill’s seventh grade Language Arts classes talked, listened to music and read Shakespeare. They were on their way to see the North Carolina Shakespeare Company perform one of Shakespeare’s later works, The Tempest, which they are reading in class.

Students began their study of Shakespeare by learning about the life, times and education of Shakespeare through video, class discussions and online resources. Students discovered the importance of meter and rhyme in Shakespeare’s writing and practiced beating out the rhythms of iambic pentameter while reading the first scene in class.
In this scene, loud thunderclaps, creative lighting, and dramatic acting combined to create a storm and the feeling of a ship being tossed at sea. Keeping in tradition, the NC Shakespeare Company used minimal scenery and props allowing the focus to be on the language and the actors while the actions and effects built excitement within the audience. 
The play was not all drama though. There was also romance and comedy. The antics of the bumbling butler Stefano, the sensitive jester Trinculo, and the monstrous Caliban in the second act had the entire audience laughing and engaged. The fabulous acting helped clarify any misunderstanding with Shakespearian language. Ananya Tummallapalli and Abbey Ekegbu seemed to have great fun with Elizabethan English at lunch by sprinkling their conversation with lots of “thees”, “thys”, and “thous”.
By the end of the day, it was obvious that seeing the play had helped weary students overcome any fear of Shakespeare. Most left with a very clear understanding of the plot and themes of The Tempest. Mikayla Zdyb and Kendall Hyman noticed a theme of forgiveness throughout the play but didn’t agree on whether they themselves could ever be as forgiving as Prospero. Mikayla felt that she, like Prospero, would be able to ultimately forgive any betrayal because friends and family are too important to lose, but Kendall said she would want revenge. Although she could forgive Propsero his faults, Kendall said she probably would not be able to forgive her true enemies as easily Prospero.  If you are surprised that seventh grade students are enjoying Shakespeare, their teachers, Jan Anderson and Anne Berryhill are not. They recognized that their students had the ability to handle such a rigorous text and have planned well and worked hard to make The Tempest meaningful and interesting.

Written by: Brita Mann
Posted: Oct 04, 2010 by Brita Mann

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