Shakespeare and Company educational programs conclude with production

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Photo Gallery | PHOTOS: Shakespeare & Co. Educators Workshop

LENOX -- To properly learn Shakespeare, you must learn to be human. You have to learn to cry, learn to laugh, learn to scream and learn to speak without abandon, for yourself and in front of others.

This time of summer marks the culmination of summer educational programs at Shakespeare & Company, which include high school- and college-aged students from Shakespeare & Young Company; grade school students in the Riotous Youth and Riotous Youth Company, and educators, teaching artists and youth program directors involved in this month's professional development workshops.

"What we find beautiful in this art is to have an actor who is speaking the truth, who can stand up, be in front of you and be vulnerable," said Associate Director of Education Jenna Ware.

She said most program participants are interested and willing to do this, but have to work at developing the skill and confidence to do so.

This week, Director of Education Kevin G. Coleman challenged educators in a workshop focused on studying and teaching "Hamlet" to not say "I feel like" and not use basic description words when responding to a question or expressing a reaction to something -- this means not saying, "I feel like this is a good thing" or "That's bad" or "I'm fine."

Coleman explained to his class that whether you're an actor or anyone, that the "blanket of ‘good' doesn't give [anyone] much insight or specificity into oneself or their experience.

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"We gain better insight into ourselves when the language is more accurate," he said.

To practice this, members of the group literally took up arms and stances, read and walked through scenes:

"These are but wild and whirling words, my lord," said a woman playing Horatio to another portraying Hamlet.

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Coleman said the mindful vocabulary-expanding process allows people to think before they speak, and to practice saying things they're afraid or longing to say. This is a skill the workshop participants said they hope to successfully pass along to the students and people they work with.

Education artist and company actress Sarah Jeanette Taylor co-directed with Tom Jaegar the nine 16- to 20-year-olds of Shakespeare & Young Company. On Wednesday and Friday the students performed two original works, "Marina" and "Love Dance," compiled of Shakespeare vignettes.

"They're going through this practice at an age when they're just discovering who they are," Taylor said. "To have them discover who they are in front of us is the best way for us to challenge them and move them forward."

Sara Holt, a Lenox native and Shakespeare & Young Company alumna, is an Emerson College graduate who now performs and assists with classes.

She said she had a hard time getting into a particularly intense rehearsal, but by the end, she cried.

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"I don't remember what I said, but I sobbed openly," Holt said. Ware was there and recalled Holt saying, "I have feelings again."

Holt describes the training programs that Shakespeare & Company offers as a personal process. "You discover where you hold your tensions and where your defenses are in general and when they trigger in life," she said.

"The therapeutic model is stolen from theater," said Coleman. "Therapy brings out feelings behind closed doors. Theatre is done in the open before everyone."

Ware said the practice of being open with everyone, whether on stage or in everyday interactions, can make all the difference.

"If we do enough of this work, we can change the world. By allowing what other people are saying to impact us, it's practicing empathy," Ware said.

To learn more about education programs at Shakespeare & Co., contact Jenna Ware, associate director of education at (413) 637-1199, ext. 172 or

To reach Jenn Smith:,
or (413) 496-6239
On Twitter: @JennSmith_Ink


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