Category Archives: Shakespeare

UP CLOSE: THE VOODOO MACBETH THAT GENERATED JOBS FOR BLACK AMERICANS DURING THE GREAT DEPRESSION ·

(from Shakespeare & Beyond, February 16, 2021.)  | 

Federal Theatre Project production of Macbeth in 1936. Courtesy Library of Congress

A struggling economy. Unemployed artists. Hard-hit Black communities. It might sound like we’re talking about our present pandemic life in America, but this also describes the situation in the 1930s, during the Great Depression.

In the midst of these difficult conditions, a spectacular production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth took the stage at Lafayette Theatre in New York City, involving hundreds of Black actors, theater technicians, and supporting staff. It was financed by the Federal Theatre Project, a controversial part of the federal government’s New Deal programs to provide jobs for Americans.

This 1936 Macbeth was distinctive for a variety of reasons: the large, all-Black cast performing a classical play (extremely unusual for the time); the voodoo-infused setting in 19th-century Haiti with colorful jungle scenery; and the involvement of a 20-year-old Orson Welles, who was making his professional directorial debut.

Related: Listen to a Shakespeare Unlimited podcast episode about Orson Welles and Shakespeare

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WOKE TEACHERS WANT SHAKESPEARE CUT FROM CURRICULUM: ‘THIS IS ABOUT WHITE SUPREMACY’ ·

(James Varney’s article appeared in The Washington Times, 2/15; via the Drudge Report.)

The crown teachers once put on Shakespeare now lies uneasy upon his head as the English playwright comes under assault from teachers who fault his un-woke attitudes regarding race, sexuality, gender and class.

For the new breed of teachers, William Shakespeare is seen less as an icon of literature and more as a tool of imperial oppression, an author who should be dissected in class or banished from the curriculum entirely.

“This is about White supremacy and colonization,” declared the teachers who founded #DisruptTexts, a group that wants staples of Western literature removed or subjected to withering criticism.

The anti-Shakespeare teachers say fans of the plays ignore the author’s problematic worldview. They say readers of Shakespeare should be required to address the “Whiteness” of their thinking.

If Shakespeare must be taught, these educators say, then it should be presented with watered-down versions of the original or supplemental texts focused on equality issues.

Elizabeth Nelson, who teaches English at Twin Cities Academy in St. Paul, Minnesota, told School Library Journal she gives her students Marxist theory when reading Shakespeare’s tragedy “Coriolanus” about the Roman leader.

Sarah Mulhern Gross told the journal that she delivered “toxic masculinity analysis” to her students reading “Romeo and Juliet” at High Technology High School in Lincroft, New Jersey.

The war against Shakespeare did not begin in 2021. Last December marked the fifth anniversary of students at the University of Pennsylvania removing a portrait of the Bard from their Ivy League halls.

The organizers behind #DisruptTexts put Shakespeare in the social justice crosshairs in October 2018.

The School Library Journal, which describes itself as “the premier publication for librarians and information specialists who work with children and teens,” joined the fight early this year and offered young adult novels as alternatives to Shakespeare.

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