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Summer 2003
Will Power
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To illustrate this point, Braunmuller and fellow English Professor Jonathan Post — Braunmuller calls him his "co-agitator" — go beyond the usual reading aloud of scenes in their classrooms to host 80 students on an annual monthlong sojourn to Stratford-upon-Avon. There, they study up to eight plays by day, attend performances of those same plays by night and talk Shakespeare with actors of the Royal Shakespeare Company, directors, technicians and even voice coaches. A side trip to London takes them to the replica of the Old Globe Theater, where they see yet another play. The class is open through UCLA's Summer Sessions and usually is made up predominantly of undergraduates.

Other programs involve connections to the broader community. Each year, for example, the UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies hosts a one-day symposium that focuses on a Shakespeare play. The symposia are open to the public, but they're produced mostly for the benefit of Los Angeles-area high school teachers, providing for them an opportunity to discuss with university experts and their peers the issues inherent in trying to teach teenagers Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet or Julius Caesar.

They also hear about the most current Shakespeare scholarship. Scholarship they bring back to their classrooms. In May, the teachers tackled Othello. They heard lectures by Richard Harp of the University of Nevada on "Word Meanings in Othello," UCLA English Professor Debora Shuger on "Othello and English Renaissance Islam" and English Professor Stephen Dickey on "Ocular Proofs: Othello on Screen," during which he showed clips from several filmed interpretations of the tragedy.

Dickey teaches the two upper-division Shakespeare classes that all UCLA English majors are required to take. In the classroom, he stresses the performance angle by asking students to "imagine the plays happening on a stage in front of an audience," instead of reading them as fiction. "Shakespeare was the most experimental playwright, the most radical playwright of his time," Dickey says. "The problem is that he's canonical now, so people can't see that."

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