Shakespeare From Page to Stage
Can literature majors act? And can actors critique Shakespeare? "Of course" say professors Gino DiIorio and Virginia "Ginger" Vaughan, who teach "Shakespeare From Page to Stage," a cross-disciplinary course offered by Clark's English and Theater Arts Departments. Vaughan brings the literary and historical analysis to the classroom, and DiIorio brings his theatrical expertise.
The course, which attracts both English and theater majors, meets three times a week—twice a week to discuss and critique Shakespeare's plays in the classroom and once to work on performing scenes from those plays in the blueroom theatre space. The small size of the course—typically no more than 14 students—makes for an intimate learning environment between students and professors.
"The key to this course is that Ginger and I learn from each other," says DiIorio. "And we have so much fun." Each sees the other as "a wealth of knowledge" and the result is a course that brings the professors' worlds together. DiIorio also believes the world of literature and theater blend so well in this class because of Vaughan's belief that Shakespeare's works are "performance texts." According to Vaughan, the text itself is a blueprint for performance and not just a piece of literature that sits on a bookshelf to be read in isolation. Similarly, DiIorio is a firm believer in stretching and challenging his acting students so that literary and historical analysis impact character development and ultimately, help raise the actor's performance to a higher level.
Active Learning in the classroom and on the stage
Vaughan and DiIorio agree that their students "don't really get Shakespeare until they perform it themselves." Vaughan says the upper-level English majors who take the course have been reading Shakespeare's lyric iambic pentameter for years, "but it's not until they are pushed to actually speak the text aloud that they realize its power." So while class time is spent on traditional literary and textual analysis, it is also spent on reading text aloud and preparing and performing scenes from the four plays chosen for the course. And both professors agree that it's their students' experience having to embody the role that makes the plays come alive.