One of the many good things about teaching high school English is the opportunity to organize an appropriate field trip for the students. This week, students attended the Stratford Shakespeare Festival to see a matinee performance of Romeo & Juliet and an evening performance of Hamlet.
What worked well
- Our high school is only a 3 hour bus-ride from Stratford, so it was possible to make the trip with very minimal time away from the classroom.
- With two performances and overnight accommodations, the trip is still remarkably affordable for the students. All of this makes it a very popular trip for the students to attend.
- The fact that the trip is completely optional, and any student in our school is welcome to participate, ensures that it is the students interested in seeing the performances that actually attend. Rather than a mandatory trip for a specific class, simply because a performance connects with our class text, our group of students took the responsibility for their own education by choosing to attend; rather than a group that has little care for the staged act, our students were completely engrossed.
- Stratford’s calendar continues to include many titles of texts our students study: all students at our school encounter Romeo & Juliet in Grade 10 English and Hamlet in Grade 12. Last year, appropriate performances for our students included Of Mice and Men, To Kill a Mockingbird, and King Lear. Perhaps Stratford will someday attempt a stage version of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game? Or Mordecai Richler’s The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz?
- Both plays do not stage their official openings until next week, but let me say here that the greatest highlight of the day was Ben Carlson as Hamlet. This production was unanimously preferred, both by our students and our chaperones, to the Romeo & Juliet matinee, and Carlson was a big factor in that preference. What a Hamlet is this!
What needs work
- Our students were exhausted by the end of the first day. After the bus-ride, the afternoon performance, then the evening performance, the students were zonked… Then again, they were ready for bed and it was perhaps a quieter hotel for that reason!
- The small city of Stratford is both beautiful and fun… except when it is cold and rainy. Our students were to spend the morning of the second day exploring the city. Well, we had cold, rainy weather; and very few shops open their doors in Stratford until 10:00 am.
- The Stratford Shakespeare Festival offers two free chaperone tickets for every 20 student tickets purchased. However, the Festival expects schools to send one chaperone for every ten students. We have always bought the two extra chaperone tickets to comply with the Festival’s expectations, but it appears that some school groups are ignoring this expectation. I was very proud of our own students’ behaviour, but a boisterous group seated in the neighbouring section was obviously unattended. Perhaps the Festival should enforce their chaperone-expectation?