October – or, as it’s commonly known in teaching circles, “Shock-tober” – is upon us. It is the beginning of “spooky season,” yes, but more importantly it’s downright spooky how the school year just accelerates from this month onward. You might find yourself staring at your beautifully made plans from the summer thinking “How am I supposed to pull this off?” Right now, when many teachers face the extra challenge of all-virtual or hybrid instruction, I want to make sure that the resources we offer you will work for whatever situation you find yourself teaching in. Here are a couple of resources you can incorporate immediately into your Othello unit – or, really, any unit you have that examines social justice or racial issues.
First up is this 42 minute keynote address by Ayanna Thompson (#CiteScholarsofColor) at the triennial “Shakespeare and Social Justice” conference hosted by the Shakespeare Society of Southern Africa in 2019. Titled “Shakespeare and Blackface / Shakespeare and Unfreedom,” Thompson walks listeners through the performance history of Othello from its inception to now, and the impact it has had on the actors who embody the title role. Before you assume that an academic conference presentation will bore your students to death – fear not! Thompson’s keynote is conversational, accessible, and engaging while still being grounded in research and “hot topics” that your students will recognize. I highly encourage you to watch this video with your students with the chat function on (if watching via screen-sharing on Zoom or other video conferencing apparatus) or watch asynchronously and then using your class time to invite conversation about what resonated with them. The depth of conversation, revelation, and reactions will probably surprise you, and it will definitely enrich their understanding of the play and its context.
Next is the “Perspectives” excerpt from our Othello study guide, which you can purchase in full from our website. This section complements Thompson’s video nicely (and vice versa), but also extends your students’ explorations of the myriad, often scary avenues this play opens up to interrogation. Pairing these ready-to-use lessons with a virtual viewing of our SafeStart Season production of Othello will help you and your students ground your discussions and explorations of the play in history and current events. Nothing spooky about that!
Want more? Bring us to your classroom with our SHX Series of offerings!