Unfortunately, this is what many people do with Shakespeare, according to Minnich.
“In recent history, sometimes Shakespeare has been thought of as only being for the elitist people — for the academics,” she said. “But it’s not. It’s for anybody. … He was writing for all of society, and I think it is so important for us to realize that it doesn’t just belong in an academic classroom.”
Minnich hopes to change this view of Shakespeare with a workshop for students in sixth to 12th grades called the “Ultimate Shakespeare-ience” from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Studio Theatre on the IPFW campus. During the workshop, she will take snippets from a handful of Shakespearean plays — such as “Macbeth,” “Hamlet,” “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” and “Henry IV” — and have the students perform fun exercises, or games, with the texts, Minnich said.
These exercises were inspired by Minnich’s time spent studying with the Royal Shakespeare Company in his home town, Stratford-Upon-Avon, England, she said.
Along with putting on performances of Shakespeare’s plays, the Company also works to “nurture the talent of the future” via its acting training programs, as stated on its website.
According to Minnich, the RSC had three main approaches to spreading the importance of studying Shakespeare. One was to introduce his plays to young people early so they will not fear him later in life. Another was to encourage people to see his plays in an actual live setting.
The third approach is to always “do it on its feet” when studying Shakespeare, Minnich said. She explained this technique meant students should examine the words of the play in the same way an actor would while rehearsing it.
“So, instead of sitting at a table or in a chair or at a desk … you’re getting it in your body. You are putting these words in your mouth and seeing what they sound like in the air,” Minnich said. “If there is any surefire way to make a kid hate Shakespeare, it is to make them read it without having fun with it.”
One of the games Minnich described has the students read an excerpt from a play and shift their bodies at every punctuation mark. This exercise is meant to help the students “get in the mindset of the character,” Minnich said.
“Shakespeare was so brilliant that he wrote the way people think and the way people feel,” she said, explaining how the punctuation in a piece of dialogue can say a lot about the mood of the character speaking.
“You discover there is an energy behind these words if you are actually trying to do something,” she said. “It just takes you out of your head … and you start to discover the language without being so mental about it.”
Overcoming the distance many students feel toward Shakespeare’s characters is an important part of teaching his work, according to Minnich.
“It’s so neat to see those lightbulb moments when kids are holding a piece of text that is 400 or 300 years old and realize that they have the exact same feelings as that character,” Minnich said.
Minnich, who teaches theatre and creative movement at several schools in the Fort Wayne area, taught the first Ultimate Shakespeare-ience for IPFW’s Community Arts Academy last spring. The CAA offers courses in art, dance, music and theater for students in grades pre-K-12, according to Melinda Haines, director of the CAA.
Minnich hopes to teach another workshop for the CAA later this year that focuses on using Shakespeare to help students with autism improve their communication skills. This workshop will use techniques
Minnich learned from actress, author and Royal Shakespeare Academy member Kelly Hunter at Ohio State University.
Minnich also will perform in the Arena Dinner Theatre’s production of the play “Always a Bridesmaid” at the end of April.
More Information‘Ultimate Shakespeare-ience’
WHAT: Workshop for students in sixth through 12 grades covering the plays of William Shakespeare.
WHEN: 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday
WHERE: Studio Theatre on the north side of the Kettler Hall building on the IPFW Campus. 2101 Coliseum Blvd. E. Kettler Hall is on the southwest corner of the campus, closest to the entrance at Coliseum Boulevard and North Anthony Boulevard.
COST: $49. To enroll in the “Ultimate Shakespeare-ience” call 481-6977 or go to the website www.ipfw.edu/caa.