Connect “Hamlet” and “Closer than Ever” to your courses.

From Cinse Bonino, Director of the Center for Instructional Practice

Suggestions for using Champlain Theatre’s spring 2013 plays, William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, and Maltby and Shire’s Closer than Ever in the classroom…

The plays:

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

Hamlet has returned home from graduate school for his father’s funeral to discover his mother already remarried to his uncle who has usurped the throne.  Suspecting treachery, Hamlet sets on a journey of revenge. But how can he be sure his cause is just? Should he strike or stand down?  Directed by Joanne Farrell, the play’s the thing in this contemporary interpretation of Shakespeare’s towering revenge tragedy that promises to be fast-paced, fresh and engaging.

PERFORMANCES:  February 13-16 and 20-23 at 7:30 P.M.  New time!

ALUMNI AUDITORIUM, Champlain College – Tickets at the door: $10.00/ Champlain Faculty and Staff; Students free with Champlain College ID

Closer than Ever

by Richard Maltby Jr. and David Shire

Directed by Sarah Gibson with musical direction by Nate Venet, Closer than Ever is a beautiful, funny, and poignant revue in two acts. It is, in short, about life – reality – the things we all can relate to and understand: the good, the bad, and at times, the hilariously ugly.  The opening number, “Doors,” begins a journey of emotions and musical genres that show us the paths we choose and those chosen for us as we transition through each stage of our lives.

PERFORMANCES:  April 3-6 at 8:00 P.M. & APRIL 7 at 2:00 p.m.

ALUMNI AUDITORIUM, Champlain College – Tickets at the door: $10.00/ Champlain Faculty and Staff; Students free with Champlain College ID

 

Suggestions for using in the classroom…

Concepts of Community:

Hamlet –

Consider the following questions after witnessing the characters’’ actions and words on stage and inferring any implied meaning:

  • How does the manner in which the other characters seem to define moral behavior and to judge the rightness or appropriateness of revenge affect Hamlet’s choices and self-image?
  • How would you define Hamlet’s conflict or dilemma?
  • How do Hamlet’s choices affect those around him?
  • In what ways is Hamlet a product of his environment or community?
  • In what ways is Hamlet a renegade?
  • How might Hamlet’s dilemma or choice be different if his community were different?

Closer than Ever –

How do the various life experiences and relationships sung about in the play showcase:

  • the tension between individual and community needs?
  • the different ways in which individuals feel as if they “belong” within a community?
  • the choices that individuals make within a community based on what they do and do not have control over in their lives?
  • the multiplicity of different individual personalities and needs within a community AND the similarities among them?

Rhetoric II:

Hamlet –

Consider the following questions after witnessing the characters’’ actions and words on stage and inferring any implied meaning:

  • Does Hamlet argue the same way with himself as he does with those around him?
  • Who is Hamlet’s most difficult audience?
  • What is Hamlet trying to persuade himself to do or not to do?
  • Why is Hamlet engaged in this struggle?
  • What makes this play a tragedy, not classically but in your opinion?
  • What could possible alter Hamlet’s dilemma or choices – how would the play have to be different in order for this to happen?
  • How do you define noble – how could you effectively convey this definition to others?

Closer than Ever –

How do the various life experiences and relationships sung about in the play illustrate:

  • the words different individuals use to convince a given audience to see their situation as they do?
  • the way musical tone and phrases mirror rhetorical strategies?
  • transition and cohesiveness among the various parts of an entire work?

 

Democracies

Hamlet –

Consider the following questions after witnessing the characters’’ actions and words on stage and inferring any implied meaning:

  • How do the choices of one individual affect the collective?
  • Does it matter that this play takes place in a monarchy?
  • Does it matter that Hamlet is a prince?
  • In a democracy can the decision of one individual have more impact than that of another?

Closer than Ever —

How do the various life experiences and relationships sung about in the play showcase:

  • the effect of choices contemplated and made in life?
  • the expectations of what each individual sees as their “rights” (what they deserve) in life?
  • freedom and the responsibilities that come with choice?
  • opportunities versus lack of choices?
  • actual versus implied or assumed rights?
  • rights versus privileges?

The Secular & the Sacred

Hamlet –

Consider the following questions after witnessing the characters’’ actions and words on stage and inferring any implied meaning:

  • What is sacred to Hamlet?
  • Is Hamlet clear about what is sacred to him?
  • Do the people around Hamlet (in his immediate world) seem to hold the same things sacred as he does?
  • Is Hamlet’s dilemma secular or sacred in origin?

Closer than Ever –

How do the various life experiences and relationships sung about in the play illustrate:

  • the individual’s need to make meaning of their lives and circumstances?
  • the individual’s need to place hope and/or trust in a force or deity outside themselves?
  • how certain societal goals/conditions (being in love for example) are revered or treated as next to sacred?

 

Heroines and Heroes

Hamlet –

Consider the following questions after witnessing the characters’’ actions and words on stage and inferring any implied meaning:

  • Is there a hero in this play?
  • Are any of Hamlet’s actions heroic?
  • How do you think Hamlet would define the term hero?

Closer than Ever –

How do the various life experiences and relationships sung about in the play showcase:

  • the tension between wanting to be the heroine of hero of one’s own life and feeling like the powerless victim of circumstances?
  • the heroic aspects of everyday life?
  • the heroic characteristics we are drawn to in others and expect of ourselves?

 

Global Studies: Human Rights

Hamlet –

Consider the following questions after witnessing the characters’’ actions and words on stage and inferring any implied meaning:

  • Is Hamlet a victim? If so, of what?
  • What right do we have as humans to justice? to peace? to closure?
  • What is the difference between revenge and justice?
  • Identify Hamlet’s rights in this situation and any correlating responsibilities.

Closer than Ever –

How do the various life experiences and relationships sung about in the play showcase:

  • the rights beyond basic needs that individuals might believe they are entitled to have?
  • the guilt of wanting more?
  • the pain or confusion of feeling you have less than others?

Global Studies: Tech & Development

Hamlet –

Consider the following questions after witnessing the characters’’ actions and words on stage and inferring any implied meaning:

  • Have do individuals, corporations, institutions, and political groups use technology to exact retribution or justice?
  • What is the impact of a rogue tech user who doesn’t take the consequences of his or her actions on the collective?
  • Is Hamlet’s dilemma one that would not be relevant in an underdeveloped country?

Closer than Ever –

How do the various life experiences and relationships sung about in the play illustrate:

  • examples of life stages and relationships that can be hindered or aided by technology?
  • examples of issues that many who live in undeveloped countries or cultures do not have the luxury of complaining about?
  • examples of issues which are more important within certain “underdeveloped” cultures – an example being a culture in which relationships weigh more heavily than material wealth?

Make Films not War; War and Identity

Hamlet –

Consider the following questions after witnessing the characters’’ actions and words on stage and inferring any implied meaning:

  • How would you capture both the individual and societal impact of this type of dilemma on film?
  • How might a dilemma such as this that involves conflicted “self” and “community” identities, especially involving an individual in a power position, promote or cause a war?

Closer than Ever –

How do the various life experiences and relationships sung about in the play remind us of how:

  • what we as individuals and as cultures/countries judge to be important determines what we are willing to fight for or against?
  • we choose to obtain what we feel we have been denied?
  • the intended and unexpected consequences of choices we make as individuals and communities?

 

Marketing, Advertising, Public Relations, Broadcasting, Brand and Account Management

Hamlet –

Consider the following questions after witnessing the characters’’ actions and words on stage and inferring any implied meaning:

  • How would you design a political campaign for Hamlet?
  • How would you broadcast the soliloquies in a powerful and effective manner over radio?
  • What would the Hamlet brand look like?
  • How could you use “to be or not to be” as a brand?
  • How would you use the concept of noble as part of a brand or campaign?

Closer than Ever –

How well does each of the characters/singers communicate their needs and/or experiences to their intended audience?

Create a campaign to “win” a particular character/singer what he or she most seems to want?

What tagline would you create to communicate the overall life “message” from this musical?

How would you advertise this play to different segments of the U. S. population?

 

Middle East Courses

Hamlet –

Consider the following questions after witnessing the characters’’ actions and words on stage and inferring any implied meaning:

  • How would Hamlet’s situation and his response to it be different if it happened in a middle eastern culture?
  • What would be the same about Hamlet’s situation and his response to it if it happened in a middle eastern culture?

Closer than Ever –

How do the various life experiences and relationships sung about in the play remind us of the:

  • differences in acceptable relationships in the East and West?
  • reality of an individual’s actual experience versus the expected or condoned societal expectations of that experience?
  • the similarities of the human experience across all cultures?

Electronic Media Writing & Publishing

Hamlet –

Consider the following questions after witnessing the characters’’ actions and words on stage and inferring any implied meaning:

  • How might you create an online abbreviated version of Hamlet for a younger audience?
  • Write a query letter pitching Hamlet as a new book that you are currently writing.
  • Create a TV and radio ad to promote the play.

Closer than Ever –

How would you use the concept of “doors” to make an interactive introduction to this play online or on video?

How might you provide an introduction to and/or transition between songs from this play to publish them as a book?

How would you use lyrics or an entire song from this play to promote a particular cause?

 

Media and Society, Film/Film History, Video Storytelling, & Audio Production

Hamlet –

Consider the following after witnessing the characters’’ actions and words on stage and inferring any implied meaning:

  • Imagine Hamlet as a love story, a mystery, a comedy – how would it look?
  • How does this play compare to other classic film tragedies?
  • How would you capture the power and effects of stage actions in a radio performance of Hamlet?
  • How do you think different socio/economic groups reacted to watching Hamlet during Shakespeare’s time? How do you think various groups respond to it today?

Closer than Ever –

How would you present an audio only broadcast of this play?

What experiences portrayed within this play would strike a “common” chord with particular audiences?

You have been given an unlimited budget to produce the movie version of this play; what does it look like?

Create an internet trailer for this play?

What place do musicals hold in our media history and experiences?

 

Human Communication &Small Group Communication

Hamlet –

Consider the following questions after witnessing the characters’’ actions and words on stage and inferring any implied meaning:

  • What are the different ways in which Hamlet interacts with the other characters in the play?
  • Is there a difference in how characters communicate with each other based on gender? power? rank?
  • How do individual comments or silences affect small group dynamics within the play?

Closer than Ever –

How do the various life experiences and relationships sung about in the play showcase:

  • common miscommunications?
  • those things that remain unspoken and the consequences of silence?
  • the imbalances in relationships that affect communication?

Game Design, Game Development, & Art & Animation

Hamlet –

How could Hamlet be used to design a puzzle game?

What animals would you use for the characters in Hamlet if you were hired to create an animated version of the play for children? Would it occur on a farm, in the woods, in the sea?

What would the challenges be in a game designed based on Hamlet?

Closer than Ever –

How could you use doors within a game environment to demonstrate the difficulty of moving from one place to another?

How might you create an entire game that revolves around the concept of doors?

What effect could height, width, and materials have on the perception of doors within a game environment?

Brainstorm multiple ways for doors to open within a game that go way beyond the usual side-hinged approach.

 

Drawing, Art History, Sculpture

Hamlet –

How has Hamlet been depicted in Art? Which depiction seems most appropriate to you?

What would /should Hamlet’s defining physical feature be?

How would you sculpt Hamlet in order to best show his true nature? his inner conflict?

How would a modern day Hamlet look?

Closer than Ever –

How have doors been used as symbols in Art throughout history?

How might you represent a “difficult” door – either to open or to close – in 2D?

How might you represent a “difficult” door – either to open or to close – in 3D?

How have bees been used in art? What do bees represent in art in different cultures?

 

Graphic Design, Typography

Hamlet –

What font screams Hamlet?

Create a poster for Hamlet for sophisticated theatre goers; for school children; for seniors; for new Americans.

You get to create Hamlet’s family coat of arms.

Hamlet needs a brand to represent his inner conflict – design it.

Closer than Ever –

Design a poster for this musical.

Design a public service poster which utilizes a door to represent either promoting stepping into or out of a particular behavior.

 

Psychology

Hamlet –

Consider the following questions after witnessing the characters’’ actions and words on stage and inferring any implied meaning:

  • Why is Hamlet conflicted?
  • We hear a lot of Hamlet’s inner story; what do you think he is not telling us?
  • What are the environmental factors that have/are affected/affecting Hamlet’s behaviors and helping to form his views?

 

Closer than Ever –

How do the various life experiences and relationships sung about in the play showcase:

  • possible driving forces behind behaviors within relationships.
  • possible driving forces behind an individual’s perception of self?
  • possible driving forces behind an individual’s perception of how they are viewed by others?

Education

Hamlet –

Create a lesson that makes Hamlet accessible to K-3 or some other school-age group.

Create a learning activity that helps young students to explore conflict and choices.

Find picture books and early chapter books that depict/explore revenge.

Closer than Ever –

How might you use doors in a classroom as a learning metaphor – an example would be to use a door in math 5 plus two equals how many?  Students would go through or open a door to reveal the answer. How else might you use doors to design a learning activity?

Design a unit on expressing emotions both positive and negative ones in an acceptable manner.

Writing, Creative Writing, Creative Non-Fiction, Journalism, & Interactive Storytelling

Hamlet –

Consider the following questions/suggestions after witnessing the characters’’ actions and words on stage and inferring any implied meaning:

  • How might you tell this same story from another character’s point of view?
  • How would you alter the story to make it a “choose what happens next” version of the script?
  • What type of theme song could be written for this play?
  • Use some of Hamlet’s words to introduce a piece of creative non-fiction about personal conflict.
  • Change one important aspect of Hamlet’s personality – describe how this would affect the words and actions within the play.
  • Rewrite the play as you would image it to be if it happened in the old West, during the Dark Ages, or some other period of history.

Closer than Ever –

Use the various life experiences and relationships sung about in the play to:

  • craft a poem to capture the emotion and conditions of one of the songs
  • create the beginning scenario of a short story
  • write a news report of a possible  “gone wrong” outcome of the story related in one of the songs
  • create an interactive story that retells one of the songs but add an unexpected twist

 

Human Sexuality

Hamlet –

Discuss how conflict can affect drive and rationale.

Discuss how peer pressure can influence choices.

Discuss how pressure to act in certain ways can come from within, from society, or from both.

Closer than Ever –

How do the various life experiences sung about in the play highlight:

  • the cultural/societal expectations that might influence certain sexual decisions?
  • the angst, uncertainty, fears, or hopes that can result from relationship interactions?
  • the power dynamics in relationships?
  • the effects of relationship interactions on self-image?

 

 

*This list can also be found on the Faculty Professional Development blog.

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