ISHPEMING - Actors from the Stratford Shakespeare Company of Ontario, Canada made an appearance at Westwood High School Tuesday to teach students how to bring a Shakespeare play to life.
Drama and English students were able to participate in the workshops held by four visiting actors. The students went through a hands-on seminar with the actors, learning about the language, themes and characters of Shakespeare.
"It's wonderful to have the actors here," Westwood drama Director B.G. Bradley said. "It's also surprising how it happened, too."
Westwood High School seniors Anthony Webb, left, and Francois Montbrun, right, read through lines with their group during a workshop with actors from the Stratford Shakespeare Company of Ontario, Canada on Tuesday in the Westwood High School auditorium in Ishpeming. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
Actor Sophie Goulet speaks to students about the lines they are about to read during the workshop. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
Westwood students listen as company members talk about Shakespeare acting. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
Bradley said he participated in a similar seminar for teachers with the group in Detroit last year and asked the head of the Shakespeare education department how he could get the company to come to Westwood.
"She told me to just ask, so I did," Bradley said. "We're thrilled to have them here and I hope we can have them as often as possible."
Anthony Webb, a Westwood senior and drama student, said he was excited for the workshop because the actors are professionals and he was hoping to learn something new that could be brought into his acting warm ups.
"When you act you have to be able to come out of your shell and a lot of times it's hard to do in the warm up," Webb said.
Stratford actors had the students do a warm up by playing the "chair game." A person called the walker circled seated students and one open chair.
The object of the game was for the students sitting to work as a team and trust their instincts in order to keep the walker from sitting down.
Students also got a chance to read lines from "King Lear," putting their group's own twist on the lines and then getting feedback from the Stratford actors.
The Stratford actors created the workshop out of game-based acting techniques that they themselves learned in theater school, said Stratford actor Sophie Goulet.
Through these games the students learned how to understand text, actor and character intentions and how to "beat" a line.
"Even if they don't want to be an actor or being in theater, what's great about what we teach them is also trust, trusting yourself, being bold and brave and doing stuff," Goulet said. "There's a lot of great notions that they can keep even if they don't end up being actors."
Goulet said the workshop also helps students understand and appreciate Shakespeare plays in a practical way - through acting -instead of learning the play academically in the classroom.
"We also try to demystify that Shakespeare's language is so specific and that people think it's a little tougher," Goulet said. "So we try to shake it up a little bit for them to realize that the plays aren't that hard to do or that hard to understand."
Goulet said her favorite part about doing these workshops is when they get a group of students who are excited about learning.
"We had to shift stuff for this class because we didn't realize just how advanced they are," Goulet said. "So when we get kids like this who are really happy to just plunge in and really take what we give them, it's just so much fun."
The Stratford Shakespeare Company visited Michigan Tech University and Northern Michigan University this week and planned to stop at Rudyard High School before heading back to Stratford.
Adelle Whitefoot can be reached at 906-486-4401.