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Why Teach and Perform Shakespeare?
Learning from the Bard

Philip Levien , San Marcos High School
Santa Barbara, CA

Building Community Learning and Performing Gatekeeper Texts Serving Diverse Learners

Where do I teach?

What are my students learning?

Teaching Practice
What's my approach?

Student Work






Creating this website was kind of a fun process, really, it's been fun to see it take shape. I think my favorite thing about it happened a few weeks ago when I got a call from one of my former students.

When I first met him years ago, he worked at my wife's family's restaurant. He was this funny guy -- you just adore him, he's a jokester. He reminds me of Will Smith. I loved this kid. So I knew I was going to do a Shakespeare play, I saw him, and I said, "You've got to be in my play. You've got to be in it." So I was driving down Hollister, in front of the school, and I see him walking by, the day before school's going to start, I said, "Did you sign up yet?" "I'm on my way now!" I said "Get yourself over there and sign up!" Well, that was Dromeo, the guy from The Comedy of Errors, the funny guy.

So he called me up just a few weeks ago, and he's now living in Mareno Valley, I think, with his young family. He asked me for the website because he wanted to show his wife and child. You know? He's got a job, he works trucking beverages around, and he wants to work his way up, but he wanted to show the website of our performance of The Comedy of Errors to his wife and child.

I was surprised and happy that he still valued that experience. The value that has to me is that -- he's got a job and he's proud to be making money, but he had an experience in our class that to him was valuable. And when his child-- his children -- go to school, he will see that kind of experience as valuable for them as well. That's some of the lasting value -- a lot of these kids are not going to become actors, but how they view school, how they view the arts is forever transformed.

When I look at this website, I think that it reflects some of my motivation to keep doing what I'm doing. Why does anyone keep teaching? Everyday I get up around quarter to six-- my doctor brother gets up earlier than that, so I don't want to complain-- but I must confess I'm tired at quarter to six. And what do I think of? I think of the kids laughing. When those boys, the Dromeos, came up with that exit, the way that came up, we were just laughing ourselves silly. In the script it says, they go off arm-in-arm, and Wilmer looked at me, and he said "I'm not doing that!" So I said, well, what would you do? And then they came up with that thing. So if you give them ownership over it, they come up with better stuff than you could ever come up with.

I think making our work available on the web is intrinsically democratic. The kids get a copy of the performance videos, too, but with the website it seems so easy for the kids to share it with their families-- in Mexico, China, wherever they are. I wonder how far that sharing goes!


The work on this website includes ethnographic video documentation recorded by Richard Nardi and ChunXia Wang, and was supported in part by the Center for Teaching for Social Justice at U.C. Santa Barbara.

Site last updated February 21, 2006