Friday, May 29, 2015

The Reduced Shakespeare Company

(Youtube link added.)

A few years ago I put together a unit for us to study Shakespeare. This is a rather unconventional unit study since it is high school based and flew rather quickly in a matter of weeks, trying to gain a synopsis of Shakespeare's main works.  We read some of his plays together a la Reader's Theater style. We studied iambic pentameter deeply and attempted our own sonnet on any subject we wanted. We watched several Shakespearan adaptations on DVD. We linked historical moments to historical books.  A few months later we re-opened and extended our unit by visiting Historic Jamestowne where a historic figure's experience inspired one of Shakespeare's plays. As "reduced" as I thought I took Shakespeare, my lessons did not compare to a DVD, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) by The Reduced Shakespeare Company that a friend of mine lent to me.  Taking advantage of Shakespeare's own words, that "Brevity is the soul of wit," three actors cleverly performed the entirety of Shakespeare's works in an hour and a half.

Now with all the Shakespearan works we've seen on DVD, we've had three different reactions. With some we were bored out of our gourd...or at least I was. With others, we enjoyed them thoroughly. But there is one DVD where we pretty much laughed ourselves silly. What can I say? How could we not? How could anyone fully encapsulate 37 plays and 154 sonnets in 90 minutes? Somehow they got it all in...and we all got it! This made a great review DVD to do at the end of our unit.  Although it would also make a good preview DVD, I think more meaning came from it because we had background of experience...though it took us a bit longer to study it than it did for them to interpret it.

The presentation, like much of Shakespeare's works (and other plays of the era) are bawdy.  Before showing this to your homeschool kids you might want to preview this.  I wouldn't show this to younger kids, but my high school kids watched it with my husband and me. I don't remember any specifics. But I did know then that my kids would have bawdy stuff to watch and read when they attend college, so we dealt with it and discussed anything the kids had questions about.

I can't find it for sale anymore. Here's a youtube of it.

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