Monday, January 25, 2016

(E11) Bookending *Shawshank Redemption* with Performance, Part 1

Whenever I teach Stephen King's Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, I always start with Richard Lovelace's poem "To Althea, From Prison," an old poem from the 1600s which includes the famous phrase "stone walls do not a prison make." It's a poem that highlights one of the major themes of the novella. 

I always ask the students to dramatize the poem. I divide the class into four groups, one for each stanza, and they have to decide how to act out the meaning of their portion of the poem. We then practice choreographing the progression from one stanza to another. Since each group uses various props and furniture-elements in the classroom, this can be a bit tricky. 

My current group of juniors did an excellent job with making their performance a smooth one. I was especially impressed with the efforts of Matt G, Bryce H, Nic S, and Garrett J. They spent a lot of time practicing their recitation and movements. (I think they'll do a good job with Random Acts of Shakespeare next year...) I always film the performance, so here's the video of the full poem:

After we finish the novella, the students will work on a research project that will result in another (much more complex) performance in which groups of students (representing the interests of Andy, Red, and the prison Wardens) try to persuade a committee of Maine State Legislators to fund their proposed projects to reform or improve Shawshank Prison. I hope to film that performance, too, so stay tuned. 

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