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Double Double, Toil and Trouble:
Engaging Urban High School Students in the Study of Shakespeare

Marsha R. Pincus
J.R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Whose English? Getting Students into the Language of Shakespeare Shakespeare's Blues: Making Personal Connections to Macbeth Interrogating Macbeth: Crafting a Literary Analysis

Where do I teach?

What are my students learning?

Teaching Practice
What's my approach?

Student Work





How can I connect students to the work of Shakespeare, by infusing "main stage" teaching with "second stage" practices?

My name is Marsha Pincus, and I teach High School English and Drama at J.R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School in Philadelphia. I have been teaching in the School District of Philadelphia for over 30 years. Theater has profoundly influenced my teaching since my involvement with the Philadelphia Young Playwrights Program in 1987. It was during my participation in this program that I first learned about the power of playwriting as a tool for the development of critical literacy in my students' lives. Through telling their own stories in their own voices and on their own terms, my students began to see themselves as people with the power to change their lives and bring about positive change in the world. It was also during this time that I learned about the two different stages that many theaters simultaneously nurture and maintain: the Main Stage and the Second Stage. The Main Stage is the larger theater space that produces plays that will appeal to a wide audience, often tried and tested "classics" that will engender little controversy. The Second Stage, smaller in size and different in mission, is the site of smaller, experimental, new and often controversial works. These works do not have to appeal to a wide audience, though the second stage ofter serves as an incubator for future works on the Main Stage.

I have found this a useful metaphor in thinking about my classroom practices. My teaching embraces a dynamic of reciprocity between the practices and values of the "Main Stage" and the "Second Stage." That is to say that official, sanctioned, canonical curricula can be complemented with dynamic, creative, idiosyncratic pedagogies. In my first multimedia representation of my teaching practice, Playing with the Possible, I suggest that there are ways that Second Stage values can emerge on the main stage; in this website I’m doing all those Main Stage things – including the teaching of Shakespeare's Macbeth, the literary essay and the history of the English language– but I’m infusing this teaching with those values and practices from the Second Stage.



Site last updated January 3, 2006