Director of the Visual and Performing Arts Dr. Donna Ronzone reports that in support of our students’ access to the performing arts, The Léni Fund, a signature program of the Santa Barbara Education Foundation, teamed up with the world-renowned Shakespeare’s Globe to bring the magic of Shakespeare to our local students. On September 19-22, two artist-teachers from England’s Globe Education–Adam Cunis and Tas Emiabata–led 15 workshops in our school district’s junior high and high school classes over the course of several days, plus a storytelling session for sixth-grade students at Washington Elementary School. The four-day event reached more than 1,000 students. Through participatory exercises that involved every member of each class, the workshops immersed the students in the plots and themes of Macbeth with the aim of demystifying centuries-old language and fueling a love of literature. Macbeth is read by all 10th graders in the district, and this experience primed students to dive in with confidence.
Rich Lashua, a performing arts teacher at Santa Barbara Junior High, said “By the end of the 90 minutes, my students were not only able to clearly articulate the essential plot elements of one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies, they were also able to successfully decode a lengthy soliloquy from the text and bring it to life.” One of his students enthused, “I never thought Shakespeare could be so fun!”
Fifteen teachers from across the district representing English and theatre arts departments also participated in a professional development workshop led by Tas and Adam. The session focused on themes of social justice and mercy in Shakespeare’s plays as well as techniques for teaching Shakespeare to students across disciplines.
Shannon Saleh, La Colina Junior High theatre arts and vocal music teacher, encapsulated the impact on teachers and students who participated: “My students were exposed to so much good theatre technique as well as new thought processes, new language, how to view characters as three-dimensional human beings, how to play with unfamiliar wording and pronunciation, how to see each other as teammates and themselves as valuable contributors, how to step emphatically into the skin of another person by playing games that allowed inclusion, exclusion, emotional levels, strategy and metacognitive investment. I love to be challenged to be a better teacher and this workshop showed me in all of the best ways, several ways to make tangible and immediate improvements.”
As an added bonus this fall, Ensemble Theatre Company presents Macbeth to open its 2016-2017 season—the first Shakespeare play it has produced in more than 20 years. The company is offering student matinees to school groups, and hundreds of our district’s high school students will attend in October, further solidifying their sense of connection with the play.
The Léni Fund provides access to professional performing arts for students in the Santa Barbara Unified School District and is a signature program of the Santa Barbara Education Foundation (SBEF). SBEF is the only organization dedicated to supporting all 22 schools and 15,000+ students in the Santa Barbara Unified School District. To learn more, visit www.santabarbaraeducation.org or contact SBEF Executive Director Margie Yahyavi at (805) 284-9125.