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Switching on to Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Switching on to Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night's Dream.

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Park K. (2002)
This article describes how two groups of pupils with severe and profound learning disabilities participated in a series of poetry workshops at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. Shakespeare's monumental and enduring influence on English language and culture are described in a quotation by Bernard Levin. The aim of the workshops was to include people with multiple disabilities in this shared cultural heritage, and to develop the participants language and communication skills. The text of the six activities from A Midsummer Night's Dream is displayed. Each of the activities was initiated by a switch user and contains extracts of poetry from the original play. The workshop materials have been used in school classrooms as well as onstage at the Globe, requiring only a few props and staff enthusiasm to be done anywhere.
Park K. (2002)
This article describes how two groups of pupils with severe and profound learning disabilities participated in a series of poetry workshops at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. Shakespeare's monumental and enduring influence on English language and culture are described in a quotation by Bernard Levin. The aim of the workshops was to include people with multiple disabilities in this shared cultural heritage, and to develop the participants language and communication skills. The text of the six activities from A Midsummer Night's Dream is displayed. Each of the activities was initiated by a switch user and contains extracts of poetry from the original play. The workshop materials have been used in school classrooms as well as onstage at the Globe, requiring only a few props and staff enthusiasm to be done anywhere.

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Published by: Speech & Language Therapy in Practice on Jul 04, 2013
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Switching on toShakespeare:
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
cover story 
SPEECH & LANGUAGE THERAPY IN PRACTICE
SPRING 2002
4
hy should young people withsevere and profound learningdisabilities want to experiencethe story line, the atmosphereand the language ofShakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ inperformance on stage at Shakespeare’s GlobeTheatre? Vygostsky (1978, p.88) observed,
“Human learning presupposes a specific social nature and a process by which children grow intothe intellectual life of those around them.”
Life experiences and opportunities for peoplewith the highest support needs are often veryrestricted, and so Vygotsky presents us with aninteresting challenge: if we do share a ‘socialnature’, and the ‘intellectual life’ of a shared cul-tural heritage, how might we include people withmultiple disabilities? Our poetry workshops arean exploration of this question.Shakespeare seemed an obvious starting point:his monumental and enduring influence onEnglish language and culture has been describedby Bernard Levin (1983, 167-168) in one long andenthusiastic sentence:
“If you cannot understand my argument, and declare ‘It’s Greek to me’, you are quotingShakespeare; if you claim to be more sinned against than sinning, you are quotingShakespeare; if you recall your salad days, you arequoting Shakespeare; if you act more in sorrow than in anger, if your wish is father to the thought,if your property has vanished into thin air, you arequotingShakespeare; if you have ever refused tobudge an inch or suffered from green-eyed jeal-ousy, if you have played fast and loose, if you havebeen tongue-tied, a tower of strength, hoodwinked or in a pickle, if you have knitted your brows, madea virtue of necessity, insisted on fair play, slept not one wink, stood on ceremony, danced attendance(on your lord and master), laughed yourself into stitches, had short shrift, cold comfort or toomuch of a good thing, if you have seen better days or lived in a fool’s paradise - why, be that asit may, the more fool you, for it is a foregone con-clusion that you are (as good luck would have it)quoting Shakespeare; if you think it is early daysand clear out bag and baggage, if you think it ishigh time and that is the long and short of it, if 
W
 s e e 
  w  w  w. s  p e e c  h  m a g. c o  m
  i  n s  i d e   f  r o  n  t c o  v e  r
 you believe that the game is upand that truth will out even if it involves your own flesh and blood, if you lie low till thecrack of doom because you sus- pect foul play, if you have your teeth set on edge (at one fell  swoop) without rhyme or rea- son, then - to give the devil hisdue - if the truth were known(for surely you have a tongue in your head), youare quoting Shakespeare; even if you bid me good riddance and send me packing, if you wish I wasdead as a doornail, if you think I am an eyesore, alaughing stock, the devil incarnate, a stony-heart-ed villain, bloody-minded or a blinking idiot, then- by Jove! O Lord! Tut, tut! for goodness sake!what the dickens! but me no buts - it is all one tome, for you are quoting Shakespeare.”
Our second aim was for participants to developlanguage and communication skills within the frame-work of the poetry workshops. Examples include:
1.Awareness
demonstrating any kind of awareness of thesights and sounds of the activities
 2.Anticipation
for example, demonstrating an anticipation of theloud donkey noises that end two of the activities
3.Turn-taking
participating, in any way, in the turn-taking calland response structure of the activities
4.Showing self 
the participant demonstrates a ‘this is me’ behaviourto gain someone else’s attention by, for example,smiling, laughing, eye contact, and vocalizing
5. Showing objects
this is a ‘look at this’, attention-sharing behaviour
6. Giving objects
in contrast to the ‘showing objects’ behaviour
7. Seeking physical proximity 
moving, or turning, towards another person toindicate intention or desire to communicate
8. Gaze alternation
looking from an object to someone else - orvice versa - as a means of sharing attention
9. Joint attention
two or more people are intentionally lookingat the same thing (or person) at the same time
10.Declarative pointing
pointing to an object, while look-ing at the communication partnerbefore, during or after the point,to indicate ‘look at that.’Participants who do not havespeech may also use VOCAs (VoiceOutput Communication Aids).Anecdotal evidence suggests that,while many Alternative andAugmentative Communication (AAC) users mayoften be provided with switches to respond toquestions, they do not always have the opportu-nities to initiate an interaction so, in particular, wewanted to give participants who are switch usersthe opportunity to initiate each of the exchanges. Itseems a priority that, when an aim is to encouragethe use of a switch and its social functions, weshould also provide opportunities for users to initi-ate and then to practise a new skill. Therefore thelines that start each activity are context-setting,and then become time-independent, so they can berepeated as often as possible throughout the activ-ity. This allows switch users to contribute through-out the exchanges. It follows that it is also useful toprovide them with a pre-recorded message that isthe final line of an exchange, or of a song or story.
Initiated by a switch user
Each of the six activities from A MidsummerNight’s Dream (see figure 1) contain extracts oforiginal text that is performed in call and response(one or more persons calling out the words, andthe others then repeating those words or respond-ing by any movement or sound). Each of the work-shop activities can be initiated by a switch user say-ing the first line, as indicated in italics in figure 1.Each first line is also time-independent and can beused repeatedly throughout each activity. Forexample, Titania’s snoring initiates the firstexchange and, when repeated, can contribute tothe comic effect of the activity. The final line ofeach activity, also indicated in italics in figure 1, iscalled out by everyone together. Participants withsensory impairments may also use a drum or tam-bour, and the resonance of the wooden stage. Inthe classroom a resonance board can be used.We have been very fortunate in having access to the
if you agree withShakespeare when he saysQuestion your desiresnever anything can beamiss When simplenessand duty tender itHow happy some o’erother some can be!
Read this
Keith Park turns bard as two groups of pupils with severe and profound learning disabilities participate in aseries of poetry workshops at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Get your communication aids, parachute, glitteryblanket and drum ready, and prepare to join in the fun...
 
SPEECH & LANGUAGE THERAPY IN PRACTICE
SPRING 2002
5
cover story 
6. ‘Let the audience look to their eyes’
So says Bottom, convinced that their play Pyramus andThisbe will move the audience to tears. TheMidsummer Night’s Dream is full of references to eyesand the imagery of vision. Helena says ‘Love looks notwith the eyes but with the mind’ and that Demetrius is‘doting on Hermia’s eyes’ - an indication that this mightnot be true love. All the mistakes follow from magicpotions to the eyes. This is a brief selection of poeticimages about eyes and vision from the play. Linesfive and six are spoken by Hermia as the two coupleswake up in the woods the next morning, dazed andconfused. The final two lines are Oberon’s, as hereleases Titania from the magic spell of her love forthe donkey-headed Bottom.
Sssshhhh
Upon thy eyes I throwAll the power this charm doth oweI see these things with parted eye,When every thing seems double.I will her charmed eye releaseAnd all things shall be peace
Sssshhhh Activity:
These lines are spoken quietly, initiated by the switchuser’s ‘Sssshhhh’, while a parachute is gently raisedand lowered over all participants. As the final long‘Sssshhhh’ is spoken the parachute is released andcovers everyone, and is followed by as long a silenceas possible. This is a calm and quiet activity to endthe workshop.
5. Pyramus and Thisbe
‘This is the silliest stuff that ever I heard.’ Sosays one of the characters (V, i) about the play‘Pyramus and Thisbe’ presented by Bottom andhis friends to the nobles at court. It ends withPyramus, believing Thisbe to be dead, stabbinghimself (lines 1-4); Thisbe then appears, seesPyramus dead, and duly stabs herself (lines 5-7).
Oooohhhh
O Fates, come, come!Cut thread and thrum;Quail, crush,Conclude and quell!And, farewell, friends;Thus Thisbe ends:AdieuAdieu
Byeeeeee!! Activity:
A chance for some real over-the-top acting, withthe words being accompanied by grand sweepinggestures. A pre-recorded melodramaticgroan -‘Oooohhhh’ - on a switch initiates the activity,and can then be repeated throughout, toaccentuate the comedy of the awful acting. Alarge glittery blanket (the wall through whichPyramus and Thisbe have been talking) is heldup by one or two people so that everyone cansee it. It is gradually lowered over someone asthe ‘adieus’ are called out, and then thrown oversomeone as everyone suddenly shouts ‘Byeeee!’
Figure 1 - Workshop activities from A Midsummer Night’s Dream
1. Oberon
Storyline:
Oberon, the king of the fairies, is having anargument with his queen Titania (II, ii). He decides to teachher a lesson, and puts a magic herb on her eyes as she sleeps.She will fall in love with whatever she sees when waking up -Bottom, with the head of a donkey (III, i). Titania is snoring.....
 Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz..........
What thou seest when thou dost wake,Do it for thy true-love take;When thou wakest, it is thy dear:Wake when some vile thing is near.
Eee - Eee - Eee - Eee orr!!!
I pray thee, gentle mortal, sing again
Eee orr!! Eee orr!! Eee orr!! Activity:
One person (or two or three) is in the middle of the circle asTitania. The lines are spoken in call and response; after theexchange is initiated by Titania with the snoring sound recordedon the switch, everyone makes a very loud donkey noise.The first Eee orr is done rather like a sneeze (‘Eee Eee EeeEee-Orr!’ like ‘Aah Aah Aah Choo!’) to provide an exaggeratedanticipation. The donkey sounds can then be repeated twicemore - and even louder - in reply to Titania’s words on wakingup. This activity is also done using a parachute: participantsgently wave the parachute over the sleeping head(s) ofTitania; the parachute is then dropped by everyone (as theEee-Eee-Eee is spoken) except one or two people who quicklypull back the material to reveal the waking Titania as everyonecalls out ‘Eee-orrr!’ (Our parachute is dark blue with brightyellow stars - the sky of the Midsummer Night.)
2. Hermia to Helena
Storyline:
Helena and Hermia are lost in the woodsand are very cross with each other (III, ii). Inthe play, Helena is often played by someonetall, and Hermia by someone short, hencethe ‘painted maypole’ and ‘dwarf’ insults inthe next two extracts.
You puppet, you!
Painted maypole!How low am I?Not yet so lowBut that my nailsCan reach intoThine eyes!
 Aaarrgghh! Activity:
This activity is initiated by Helena’s words‘You puppet you!’ pre-recorded on theswitch. Hermia’s lines are spoken withsimulated anger, starting quietly and gettinglouder each line, until the ‘Aaarrgghh’ isscreamed out with everyone stamping theirfeet and waving their arms in a simulatedtemper tantrum. If Helena’s words arerepeated by the switch user throughoutthe exchange, it contributes to the effectof two people having a noisy argumentOne or more participants can be in themiddle of the circle as Helena, to provide afocal point for Hermia’s invective.
3. Helena and Lysander,to Hermia
Storyline:
Helena and Lysander take theirturn at insulting Hermia (III, ii).
Oooohhhh!
When she’s angryShe is keen and shrewdThough she be but littleShe is fierceGet you gone you dwarfYou minimusYou beadYou acorn
Oooohhhh Activity:
The ‘Oooohhhh!’ on the switchstarts this exchange, which wedo in a pantomime dame style(think Julian Clary) to provide acontrast to the previous activity.It finishes with everyoneputting their hands on theirhips and calling out a veryexaggerated ‘Oooohhhh!’Participants can also suggestanother character whose stylecan be imitated - ClintEastwood (‘make my day’) orPatsy or Edina from AbsolutelyFabulous.
4. Bottom
Storyline:
After his Midsummer Night’s Dream,Bottom wakes up and announces: ‘Iwill get Peter Quince to write a balladof this dream: it shall be calledBottom’s Dream, because it hath nobottom’ (IV, i). But he just cannotget the words right.
Eee orr 
I have had a dreamMethought I was -Methought I had -The eye of manHath not heardThe ear of manHath not seenWhat my dream wasMan is but an ass
Eee orrr!! Activity:
The ‘Eee orrr’ that dominates thisexchange is heavily ironic: an ‘Eeeeorrr’ that means something like ‘ stu -pid’. Anyone who has ever seen JohnCleese and others playingthe verygormless Mr and Mrs Gumby (knottedhandkerchief on head, rolling eyes,trousers rolled up, arms held out likepenguin flippers, and calling out‘Dhhrrr!’) may have a role model.
Mark Rylance, Artistic Director of the Globe Theatre,meeting the group of pupils from Charlton School whoare doing A Midsummer Night’s Dream on stage.
Episode 2: Hermia to Helena:
“Thine eyes! Aaaarrrggghhh!!!” “How low am I? Not yet so low But that my nailsCan reach into” 

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