Published: June 23, 2017 By

Sword fighting practice

Breshaun Joyner’s doctoral dissertation is on teaching Shakespeare so she's eager to learn as much as possible about the Bard of Avon. Teacher Ashley Rousseau loves sharing Shakespeare with her middle and high school students in Wyoming. Stephany Roscoe is a local community theater actor who wants to perform in more Shakespearian plays.

The three students—and seven others—came to CU Boulder for the past two weeks to immerse themselves in all things Shakespeare. 

This year not only marks the 60th season of the Colorado Shakespeare Festival (CSF) but also the first year of the Applied Shakespeare Certificate. Students spent the past two weeks in classes covering how to teach Shakespeare, voice training, stage combat, stage directing and history lessons about Shakespeare’s time.

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“(The first week) was overwhelming—in a positive way,” said Rousseau, a teacher in the rural Wyoming town of Pine Bluffs. “We had a break on Sunday and so on Monday it was kind of like OK, where is that action again?”

The lessons from this course have potential for many uses. Better communication in business and other areas of life, a better understanding of the subject for teaching or better presentation skills drawing on the acting lessons. Rousseau plans to use her newfound knowledge and skill to better teach her students about Hamlet. This year at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, Hamlet is being played by a woman. Rousseau is very excited to incorporate the implications of the gender switching in her teachings.

The certificate program is the brainchild of CU Boulder’s Vice Provost William Kuskin. He worked with Timothy Orr, producing artistic director of the CSF; theater Professor Bud Coleman; and Quentin McAndrew, assistant dean of program development for the CU Boulder Graduate School to get the certificate off the ground.

Theater instructor Hadley Kamminga-Peck, who has worked on the certificate program, is working closely with CSF and says that there are other intensives in the country, but none to her knowledge that are part of a professional certificate, let alone connected to a Shakespeare festival and a major university.

The certificate program involves taking a 5000-level English course on Shakespeare during the spring semester followed by a two-week intensive in June, and a 15- to 20-page project or original curriculum due one month after the intensive. The course costs $700 per credit hour or $6,300 for the whole nine credits.

It was hard for students interviewed to choose a part from the two-week intensive that was their favorite. But some students praised the faculty for being so enthusiastic and passionate. They also loved the lecture at Fiske Planetarium about how the sky looked during Shakespeare’s life and how it is different from present day.

Roscoe, a Boulder area resident, said her favorite thing was the camaraderie formed among the students who showed up and “how we all bonded in Shakespeare.”

Joyner described her experience - and the end of the intensive - this way:

“I have to realize that you stop opening up your Christmas presents. It’s been one wonderful gift after another.”