Following up a bit on my last post, there were definitely some conversations happening at the Shakespeare conference that I am now mulling over in light of my church interest. I’m chair of the nurture committee at church and we are in the middle of discussing making changes in our children’s church school as well as seeking ways to nurture the younger adult group who does not attend educational opportunities.
The seminar I took part of was called “Shakespeare Performance on the College Campus.” People wrote papers about play productions at and around their campuses. Some folks were directors of those productions, some were teachers who practice performance pedagogy, and a few were, like me, observers of the phenomenon. We all read the papers ahead of time and then had a lively discussion based on issues brought up in the papers and by the seminar leader. One of the major topics of discussion was “relatability” or relevance. How much do we work to make Shakespeare productions relevant to the college students. Do we let them stand for themselves? How different are the needs of productions in schools outside metropolitan areas who have a built-in audience because they are the purveyors of culture in the region than the schools situated in cities like Minneapolis which have a plethora of cultural options?
While I stand firmly by what I said in my last post about Shakespeare and Christ being very different things, the conversations about “relatability” and relevance stand. (Christ is always relatable and relevant–the question pertains, I think, to our ways of being church.) Is a Sunday School based on 1980s secular pedagogy relevant for our church school kids? What about the songs we sing? Knowing our focus is on Christ, how do we prioritize that focus? Anyway… they’re kind of discussions we have ad nauseum in both contexts.
The fun part was the last event I attended and to which I dragged Computerguy. It was a screening–and discussion with the director–of Playing Pericles, a film of a performance of Pericles at University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). The film is a recording of a performance of Shakespeare’s Pericles put on by actors using toys on tables to tell the story. The actors have the lines memorized and speak them while they are moving their action figures, monsters, Playmobil figures, Barbies around. The director said he was inspired by watching his own children play hour after hour telling story after story with their Playmobil figures. It was a really fun production, and quite a good one, and it has me contemplating Godly Play, a church school option we’ve discussed, but kind of put on a back burner because none of us have seen it in action (Here’s a video that does an fair job of explaining it, I think). I’d like to bring it back in to the discussion. I think it has a lot of potential.
Godly play is based on Montessori methods: kids have their own worship space (not, in our case, to replace worship with the whole community, but to enhance it) and the program comes with (pricey) set-ups. It allows the kids to explore the stories, learning them through visual, aural, and kinesthetic means, making them their own through “wondering” questions about them, and culminating with a response activity of their choice. I’m having trouble seeing a downside except the expense of start-up if we hate it. And I suppose that’s a big issue.
Lorna at See Through Faith has written about participating in Godly Play, mostly as the 2nd adult, but also as substitute Storyteller. If anyone else has had any experience with it, I’d love to hear it.