Last week, three groups from Harlem Academy performed of scenes from Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the 2015 Shakespeare Smackdown (ShakeSmack) hosted by the Classic Stage Company out of Greenwich Village. Most of the teams were from high schools, but Harlem Academy teams of sixth through eighth grade students took both first and second place.
In preparation for ShakeSmack and as part of our electives offerings, our 12 students worked hard over the past 4 weeks rehearsing their 5-minute scenes with coaching from Middle School English Teacher Whitney Wood. In June these students will put on their own full-length production of the play as the culmination of the elective.
It is not just those who choose this elective that learn the joys of Shakespeare. Harlem Academy’s English program introduces all students to Shakespeare, starting with “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in sixth grade, followed by “Othello” and “Romeo and Juliet” in later grades.
Our performance-based study of Shakespeare starts with a workshop from the Young Company, a partnership between Classic Stage Company and the graduate Theatre Arts Program at Columbia University’s School of the Arts. After the workshop, students read an entire text in class with Ms. Wood, always keeping in mind the ultimate purpose of acting out the play. At the end of the trimester, all students participate in performing scenes for peers, family, and friends.