"my shakespeare" revisited

It’s hard to believe that almost a month has passed since the “my shakespeare” teachers’ workshop at the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town! For those who were fortunate enough to participate in this event, the energy and ideas and passion that it generated feel very fresh. We thought it would be a good idea to post a little reminder . . .

Firstly, a big THANK YOU to our wonderful hosts at the Baxter Theatre, and to our generous sponsors: the always-awesome folk at CN&CO and the amazingly-arts-affirming BASA!

These posters are a record of the “silent conversation” that took place alongside the presentations and workshop sessions … and of course all the LOUD conversations in between!

Our presenters, Robyn Tyler, Buhle Ngaba, Bronwen Rees, Amanda Mkehle and Lauren Bates, gave fascinating plenary talks on:

  • Orienting towards our learners: Shakespeare in the multilingual classroom

  • Readings and reflections on Shakespeare in translation

  • Integrating Shakespeare across the curriculum


  • Improvisation in teaching and performing Shakespeare

Then it was time for breakaway sessions on:

  • Lifting the text off the page

  • Multilingual Essay Writing


  • Creative Writing with Shakespeare’s Fools

Day one ended with a performance, by alumni of Vista Nova School, of The Robben Island Shakespeare (written by Matthew Hahn and directed by Lauren Bates).

Day two concluded with a panel discussion, including Fazeelah Haffejee of the Western Cape Education Department and Peter Ruddock of the Independent Examinations Board, on the challenges of transforming curriculum and assessment practices.

So, where to from here?

Well, we have to tackle those curriculum and assessment issues!

And how about using Shakespeare to support the language and literacy advocacy work of the bua-lit collective? You can read Robyn Tyler’s blog post about “my shakespeare” on the bua-lit website here.

Or maybe you and your learners could sign up for the Shakespeare Schools Festival?

We are currently revising the Resources section of Shakespeare ZA to accommodate the teaching and learning materials that some of the “my shakespeare” participants have generously shared (different plays will have dedicated pages, the Translation section will be expanding, etc). Please keep these contributions coming …

Make sure you follow Shakespeare ZA on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to receive updates in the coming months, and spread the word among your learners and fellow teachers!

Finally, a few thoughts from workshop participants:

It was great that all of the sessions were so interactive! We got to do things that made us vulnerable, but also affirmed us as experienced teachers and helped us realise that we know more than we thought. Sometimes you know it ‘at the back of your brain’, but you are so focused on the curriculum and exams that you don’t have time or energy to think beyond that. The atmosphere was so productive and everyone was really concentrating, expanding our ideas as well as having the reassurance of what we are already getting right. And thinking about our learners’ needs – for example, encouraging movement in the classroom, allowing the children to learn and explore through performance.
I realised that I need to be more aware of the multilingualism my learners bring into the class. Even English, I have learned, is not a ‘monolingual language’, it is translingual, influenced by the different language environments and language backgrounds of the speaker. And so there are many different ‘versions’ of English! I am going to take back to my school what I learned about multilingualism and explore how translation plays a role in understanding, not just Shakespeare, not just English, but other subjects too.
Teachers need to network more. So often the teachers I work with are conservative in their approach, but the colleagues I met attending this workshop are really forward-thinking! The speakers were fantastic, their talks were well-structured and very informative. It would have been nice to have more question time, and more time for discussion between teachers. Please make the workshop materials available online! ***


Ayanna Thompson at Wits University (Johannesburg)

Professor Ayanna Thompson of Arizona State University, the keynote speaker at the “Shakespeare and Social Justice” conference taking place in Cape Town from 16-18 May, will be visiting Johannesburg thanks to the American Embassy and the African Centre for the Study of the United States at Wits University.

She will be giving a talk at Wits at 5pm on Monday 13 May. This is a public event - don’t forget to RSVP if you are going to attend!

Poster - Ayanna Thompson - Johannesburg (Wits).jpg

"myshakespeare" kicks off at the Baxter!

Over fifty teachers and educationists from across South Africa will gather at the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town this weekend to explore new possibilities for Shakespearean encounters in South Africa’s classrooms. Here’s what’s happening:

Making Shakespeare my shakespeare ... with a little help from our friends

Earlier this week you may have seen various posts and news items about “Shakespeare Day”: the 23rd of April is the day on which, according to tradition, Shakespeare was born and - coincidentally - died. (Not the SAME day … you know what we mean. RIP Will Shax, 1564-1616, etc.)

In South Africa, people have marked the anniversary with lectures, lunches, dress-up days at schools and more. Here at Shakespeare ZA, we haven’t had time to get into all the “Bard’s Birthday” stuff ... we’re saving our celebrations for next month, and looking forward (somewhat frantically) to a week in the middle of May that is going to be a highlight - a turning point? a cornerstone? a watershed? an historic moment? - or, at least, a significant plot twist in the unfolding story of Shakespeare in SA.

The Shakespeare Society of Southern Africa will be hosting its triennial congress in Cape Town from 11-18 May. There will be three events:

You can read more, and download programmes for each of these events, by following the links above.

Or you can listen to this short interview on Kaya FM with president of the Shakespeare Society, Chris Thurman, who spoke to Kaya Bizz host Gugulethu Mfuphi about the concept behind “Making Shakespeare my shakespeare”.

Finally, we want to take a moment to amplify that brief “shout-out” at the end of the interview! Over the coming weeks, as we post more information about the events in May and about those who are participating in them, we’ll also be sure to acknowledge the support we have received from various institutions and organisations. But it all starts with our friends at CN&CO, who inspire, encourage, enable and fund many of the projects undertaken by the Shakespeare Society. Check them out!

With CN&CO’s sponsorship, the Shakespeare Society was also able to apply for a supporting grant from Business and Arts South Africa. BASA does a.m.a.z.i.n.g work bringing together business and arts projects. Read all about it: