According to a recent article in The Washington Post, John Cariani’s play Almost, Maine unseated Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream as the most performed work in U.S. high schools this year. Did your school do a production? What did you think?
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The average high school student (non-AP or Honors) has always been a bit put-off by Shakespeare. I think it's due primarily to the language barrier that seems to stand between today's readers. Shakespeare still seems to be a staple among college theatre groups, so I think it is more of a shift to older, more serious drama/English students rather than a distinct move away from the Bard's works.
I don't think we're moving away from Shakespeare, but it's being done in more modern ways which the public (because of it's ignorance of Shakespeare) doesn't realize. For instance, the film Ten Things I Hate About You was a huge hit, and it is nothing more than Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. Even the names of the main characters are the same!! West Side Story is essentially Romeo and Juliet. The same is true of the film The Lion King for Hamlet and She's the Man for Twelfth Night.
It's not the stories Shakespeare tells that don't interest...they are wonderfully imaginative and relevant to modern society. However, the language poses a barrier (even though it is beautiful and poetic) because people don't read as much as they used to, and they certainly don't want to work so hard when they do. God forbid we must think a little! Pish-posh!
Shakespeare has been around for hundreds of years. As with most things in life there are cycles, and while some might think Shakespeare's time has come and gone, I have no doubt he will be back--if for no other reason than some future generation will rediscover what has always been great about Shakespeare and thus ensuring his longevity.
I have to question whether we as a society are "moving beyond" Shakespeare. I don't necessarily think this is possible, as the themes in his plays are so universal and timeless that they will always have appeal. Perhaps contemporary drama will have more of a "pull" initially, but certainly I question whether plays such as this one will still be around in 500 years - which, of course, is the big test.
Wow. Shakespeare--the real stuff, not some parodies or reworkings or other mutations--is, indeed more difficult to sell on the high school stage than it used to be. I've only ever produced The Taming of the Shrew, and we had our lowest attendance at a play in ten years--which is too bad, because it was a delightful show. Clearly we're moving away from the classical cannon and moving to more modern stories. I think that's a shame--not shameful, just a shame.
I actually doubt that that is true because I have never heard of the other work. Shakespeare is actually in more textbooks than any other dramatist and it would be reasonable that if the teacher follows the textbook, then the play will be at least partly performed in class.
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