Training Artists to Teach in Schools: The Richard Rooney and Laura Dinner Artist Training Program

By: Edward Daranyi, Resident Teaching Artist

Last Sunday, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s Education Department, in collaboration with Destination Arts and the Faculty of Education at York University, began the fourth session of the Richard Rooney and Laura Dinner Artist Training Program. The course teaches professional actors – mostly Festival company members, with a few Festival alumni in this year’s class – everything they need to know to work as visiting artists in Ontario schools.

After introductions by the instructors from York, Kathleen Gould Lundy and Belarie Zatzman, and a welcome on behalf of the Festival from General Director Antoni Cimolino and Director of Education Andrea Jackson, we spent a wonderful day getting to know each other and finding out more about what the next four days would hold.

On Monday we dove into an exploration of the artist’s role in the classroom, strategies and effective teaching tools for Macbeth. Tuesday the instructors from York held a practical demonstration class with Grade 7 students from Stratford Northwestern Public School. Kathy put the artists and students through an engaging workshop on Romeo and Juliet. It was an exhausting morning for everyone, but it was wonderful to watch a master teacher at work. The Grade 7s left energized and ready for the rest of their day at Northwestern, and the artists, after a rich discussion with teacher Mrs. Keys and our instructors, dove in to unpack and discuss the Romeo and Juliet lesson and how they might have handled some of the challenges that came up during the class.

We were joined Tuesday afternoon by Laura Levin, associate professor at York and the editor-in-chief of Canadian Theatre Review, for an incredibly engaging look at teaching Much Ado About Nothing from the perspective of contemporary performance studies. It was a lively afternoon.

Today Alice Te joined us from OISE and our morning was all about equity and social justice throughout the classroom, and why it matters. The artists have been absorbing and assimilating all this new information and using it to devise their final assignment, a lesson plan for a Grade 12 English class, which they will deliver tomorrow in groups.

Working with this group of artists for the week has been fantastic. I look forward to working with them this year in education programs both here at the Festival and out in the schools.

Photo credits:
-York University instructor Kathleen Gould Lundy (centre) with Erica Peck (left) and other company members.
-Company members and Grade 7 students embody a line from Shakespeare.
-Company members (from left) Erica Peck, Travis Seetoo, Sarah Afful, Ruby Joy and E.B. Smith meet Grade 7 students.
– Actors Cara Ricketts, Ngozi Paul, Sarah Afful, Carmen Grant and Ari Weinberg in a class exercise.

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