Shake It Up After-School: Service Learning, Shakespeare, and Performance as Interpretation

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Contribution to Books

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"Play out the play. I have much to say in the behalf of that."

1 Henry IV 2.4.467-68

Since this essay collection demonstrates the viability of connecting service learning and literary studies, surely consideration must be given to how this innovative and enriching pedagogy applies to Shakespeare courses, a staple of nearly every university course catalog. The approach described and analyzed here emphasizes performance as interpretation and asks students to spend much of the semester focusing on one Shakespeare play, discussing it, performing scenes from it, writing about it, and teaching it to elementary students by helping them produce a one-hour performance version of that play. This exercise is part of my service-learning project, Shake It Up After-School (SIUAS), which is "fundamentally concerned with civic education and social justice because improving access for all to Shakespeare as cultural capital (not only of high or elite culture, but also of youth, popular, and even low culture) is an issue of social justice" (Hansen, "O Brave New World" 181).1 This essay argues that the incorporation of a performance-focused service-learning project like the one I describe significantly improves students' literary-analytic and critical-thinking skills.