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WHAT IS SPEAKING DAGGERS?
Hardly a day goes by when we do not hear of a new incident of bullying in our schools. While working with a group of 9th graders discussing the suicides in Romeo and Juliet the group said that bullying was a justification of suicide. In that moment, the idea of Speaking Daggers was born.
Speaking Daggers is an anti-bullying workshop created by Shakespeare on the Sound that uses Shakespeare's characters and scenes to help students stand up to bullying and to encourage empathy for peers who are experiencing aggression, social exclusion or verbal abuse. (The title is inspired by HAMLET, who, when confronting his mother says that he will “speak daggers, but use none.”)
WHY USE SHAKESPEARE?
1. Bullying and peer aggression is often about an unequal balance of power and the abuse which accompanies it which often goes undetected because it is psychologically complex and subtle. Shakespeare’s plays highlight the complexities of conflict and power dynamics in human relationships. Though 400+ years old, the stories resonate profoundly with audiences because the characters and situations are so universal. For example, in our pilot performances of Speaking Daggers, students immediately recognized themselves in the conflict between Hermia & Helena (from A Midsummer Night’s Dream), as they hurled insults at each other about their body types.
2. There is also a certain distance by using an author whose language is quite different than our own, whose characters and plays are fictional, and whose plays were performed so long ago that allows students to analyze the issues of aggression without feeling personally vulnerable.
3. Finally, as an added bonus, students get to see some of the most riveting scenes of Shakespeare performed by professional actors. For some students this is their very first exposure to SHAKESPEARE.
WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT OUR APPROACH?
We combine Shakespeare’s scenes with Augusto Boal’s techniques of Forum Theatre that encourage the use of theater to resolve community conflict. In each scene, we give the students an opportunity to develop solutions and strategies to resolve conflict. Students have the chance to rewrite and reconsider Shakespeare! It is amazing to see how quickly they work within the Shakespearean framework. If a student has the power to step into a Shakespeare scene and change the outcome, then he or she has the power to say no to aggression and bullying in their schools. In the final speech of Speaking Daggers, actors transform Shylock’s famous speech using their own instances of bullying (as victim or as bully) and then integrate the students’ own words into the speech as well.
I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands,
organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same
food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases,
heal'd by the same means, warm'd and cool'd by the same winter
and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If
you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?
And if you wrong us, do we not revenge? If we are like you in the
rest, we will resemble you in that.
- The Merchant of Venice, III.i.58-68
WHO ARE THE CREATIVE FORCES BEHIND THIS PROJECT?
Speaking Daggers was created by the education department of Shakespeare on the Sound, Connecticut’s 17 year old premiere professional outdoor theater company, dedicated to providing free Shakespeare performances and educational outreach programs.
WHY DO WE NEED FUNDING?
We want to bring Speaking Daggers to as many schools as possible in Connecticut and Westchester County in the spring of 2013. We piloted the program at middle schools in Norwalk, CT in 2012 in association with the Carver Center and we reached 400 students.
This year we would like to reach over 5000 students in Connecticut. We Need Your Help to underwrite the programs and pay our actors and teaching artist salaries, transportation, supplemental materials, rental fees, and overhead costs because THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS CAN'T DO IT ALONE!
We cannot afford to keep up with the demand of this program and WE NEED YOUR HELP!
"Shakespeare Gets a Cell Phone"
Norwalk Patch article on Speaking Daggers. By Leslie Yager.
Do you have questions about Speaking Daggers? Contact our Director of Education, Emily Bryan, at firstname.lastname@example.org!
THANK YOU FOR THE SUPPORT!
Video edited by McCann
Music by Joel Chaffee