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8 ways to learn more about Shakespeare

31 January 2019
Ahead of the international conference "Shakespeare FuturEd" at the University this week, here are eight ways scholars, teachers and practitioners are exploring the enduring relevancy of The Bard at Sydney.

1. Shakespeare FuturEd conference explores the teaching of The Bard

This week, leading international scholars, educators and practitioners of the Bard will converge on the University to investigate how the English Renaissance poet and playwright William Shakespeare still resonates today. Shakespeare FuturEd Conference 2019 will look at how educational changes and new approaches to Shakespeare are impacting on all aspects of teaching and learning.

The conference is presented by the Better Strangers team from Shakespeare Reloaded, including Professor Liam Semler from the Department of English and Associate Professor Jackie Manuel from the Sydney School of Education and Social Work.

2. Shakespeare plays as they were meant to be

In 2016, University of Sydney research into Shakespeare's second Globe theatre led to the world’s first faithful reconstruction in New Zealand, followed by successful seasons in Melbourne and Sydney last year.

The three-storey, 900-person capacity replica theatre is based on the research of Tim Fitzpatrick, Honorary Associate Professor from the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies, who spent years studying the second Globe Theatre, which was built by William Shakespeare and his company on the burnt-out foundations of the first Globe in 1614.

With the help of Russell Emerson, former Technical Director and Honorary Associate of the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies, Associate Professor Fitzpatrick's research has been brought to life by Auckland-based theatre festival Pop-Up Globe

3. Shakespeare for the digital age

Our academic experts worked with school teachers to develop an innovative open-access website that gives educators imaginative ways to engage with Shakespeare, outside the boundaries of the curriculum.

Shakespeed and Shakeserendipity are games on the Shakespeare Reloaded website that encourage teachers and students to encounter and collide diverse resources in order to generate imaginative and original responses to Shakespeare and his plays.

4. Shakespeare reimagined – learn his language from the best

Whether you’re more interested in English or Theatre and Performance Studies, the University's Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences is the perfect place to study Shakespeare, his plays and their modern manifestations – what better way to immerse yourself in the language and culture of the bard, still so resonant culturally.

5. School Drama teaches the teachers and their students

School Drama at the Sydney Theatre Company is a unique project devised in collaboration with the Sydney School of Education and Social Work’s Professor Robyn Ewing which uses drama and as a model how to use process drama-based strategies with quality children's literature to improve teaching and learning. The secondary focus is on improving student literacy and engagement. Over the decade since 2009, 27,000 students and teachers have participated in the program across Australia.

6. Dramatic society trains thespians

Tread the boards like the Bard who acted in key roles in his plays. SUDS - the illustrious Sydney University Dramatic Society, now in its 129th year - stages the classics and work by new writers. SUDS has produced some fine actors and directors including John Gaden, John Bell (who went on to establish Bell Shakespeare), Marion Potts, Neil Armfield, Virginia Gay, Gough Whitlam (where he met Margaret), Clive James and Germaine Greer (both of whom went on to join Cambridge Footlights). SUDS also stewarded the early talents of Gabby Millgate whose famous line in Paul Hogan’s 1994 film, Muriel’s Wedding, has been absorbed into the English vernacular. It’s not “I do desire we may be better strangers” (Orlando, As You Like It, Act III, Scene II), but it's had pop culture impact from Porpoise Spit to the rest of the world.

7. A lifelong love of literature

High school students who might never have thought about going to university are changing their minds thanks to a program, in partnership with the Nelson Meers Foundation, that demystifies tertiary study and brings the arts and humanities to life. Staging Shakespeare is just one of the exciting activities that make up the Widening Participation in English program, which sees academics from the Department of English visit schools in Western Sydney and regional and rural NSW with two goals in mind – bringing literature and the humanities to life, and opening up students to the possibilities of tertiary study.

8. The influence of the occult and witchcraft

Want to know more about Macbeth's three wonderfully weird witches? Back in 2015, Dr Huw Griffiths from the Department of English was invited by ABC Radio to teach a lesson on Shakespeare as part of their weekly Self Improvement Wednesdays program. Listen back to the episode, in which Dr Griffiths explains the role of the three witches in Shakespeare's Macbeth and how 17th century beliefs about witchcraft and the occult play out in the Bard’s famous tragedy.

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