How Performing in Theater Can Help Build Empathy in Students

One of the first exercises Kyle Ware does with teachers in the Kentucky Shakespeare From the Page to the Stage development workshop is to get them on their feet and using the words of Shakespeare in action, in a game called, “Shakespearean Insults and Compliments.” Ware, who is director of education for the company’s extensive schools program, said that teachers take each other down and lift each other up using the words of the Bard—no matter if they’re accurate: “Thou art an ill-fated huggermugger!” is an example Ware gave.
“Then the other person might throw something back at them. The idea is that, when put in context, this insult is something that can easily be understood. Even though I don’t exactly know what a huggermugger is, I get it.”
From the Page to the Stage was developed by Kentucky Shakespeare in conjunction with the Folger Shakespeare Library in 1991, as a way to help teachers get the most out of teaching Shakespeare to their classes, and has been honored by the Library as an exemplary program and used as a model for other professional development programs. The idea behind it, said Ware, was to get Shakespeare “back up on its feet,” where it belongs. Since Shakespeare’s plays were meant to be performed, Ware said they have seen that students get more out of Shakespeare when they are doing both reading and performance.