Understanding Shakespeare

Erin Byrnes, Staff Writer

Ben Crystal is an actor, author, and producer. However, on Friday, December 2nd at Farmingdale High School, he took on a different role: teacher. He was here to help sophomore English students think more deeply about Shakespeare. Crystal is a Shakespeare expert and has countless experiences performing the bard’s plays, and he has even published various books on Shakespeare as well.

During the presentation, Crystal’s energy was contagious, grabbing the interest and attention of the students. He began the presentation by giving background information about the Shakespearean time period. Crystal, with the assistance of some fellow actors who made the trip with him, encouraged the students to participate, just like the audience did during Shakespeare’s time. (The audience was not always silent  and the performances were sometimes just a background to the people’s conversations. Who knew?!?) The next part was a breakdown of Macbeth, which helped the students understand it better in the classroom. “My students really enjoyed watching Ben Crystal and the other actors perform a portion of Macbeth live, especially a part that they were currently up to in the play.  It really helped them to understand not only the play itself but the time period that Shakespeare wrote in,” comments Mrs. Powers, a tenth grade English teacher. The actors Ben brought with him were experienced in playing these roles; their enthusiasm helped bring the play to life. It was a great experience to see the difference between how Shakespeare intended the play to be seen, as opposed to how we often experience his plays inside the four walls of a classroom.

The experience was beneficial to all who attended at many different angles. The students were entering this performance to have better knowledge of the subject and to have a deeper understanding when in the classroom and working. However, the teachers were also energized by the experience, and they are excited to help make Shakespeare more accessible to the student body. “Personally, I learned so much from listening to Ben Crystal. Not only about Shakespeare as a playwright, but also how to improve my teaching of his plays,” says Powers. “Also, I enjoyed having the time to learn from him with my colleagues in a more casual setting.  I could have spent hours talking to him about his experiences.”