William Shakespeare wrote to put food in his belly, quaff an ale or two and draw laughter and tears from his audience. But as one of the great playwrights in all history, he did not write to strike terror and dread into contemporary adolescents.
Although Alberta’s school curriculum still includes Shakespeare, the text is often studied while sitting behind a desk. However, The Bard crafted his stories not to be read behind a desk, but to be spoken creating sounds and pictures that stimulate the imagination and keep theatre-goers bewitched for hours.
The St. Albert Arts Exchange, one of the city’s cultural support programs, is offering a free workshop to all actors, directors, students and teachers interested in learning to free Shakespeare’s language through the spoken word.
“Our main goal is to demystify Shakespeare. We’re going to get up on our feet and put the language in our mouths,” said Andrea Gammon, community cultural coordinator for the City of St. Albert.
“In high school, students read Shakespeare silently and answer essay type questions. It’s the same approach as novel studies. But Shakespeare’s works are not novels. They are play scripts. We want to get people speaking and that will make it much more comprehensible at the end of the day.”
Gammon grew up in St. Albert and received her theatrical foundation with St. Albert Children’s Theatre before moving east where she eventually earned the prestigious post of director of education at Stratford Festival.
Now that Gammon has returned to her roots, she invited Alana Hawley, a Shakespearean actor she met at Stratford, to lead the upcoming two-hour workshop. A University of Alberta BFA acting graduate, the British Columbia born Hawley is a veteran actor landing performances at Stratford Festival, Citadel Theatre, Canadian Stage, Theatre Calgary and Vertigo Theatre to name a few.
Gammon added that the workshop is designed to supply teachers with more tools as well as provide young actors and directors more exposure in developing the rhythm of classical text.
“I’m very passionate about this. The city has lots of resources to support a lot of things. Children’s theatre is robust, but we haven’t done a lot of things with the classical text. As the school curriculum gets more packed, teachers are getting less support. I think it’s important we continue to provide tools to teachers and students and connect in a way that makes Shakespeare present and alive,” Gammon said.
The Shakespeare workshop takes place Monday, Dec. 4 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Progress Hall in the Arden Theatre, 5 St. Anne Street. Although the workshop is free, registration is required. Call Gammon at 780-459-1772 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to register.