The experience of grappling with the plays and getting up and doing it gave them a tremendous sense of self confidence.
Carol Symes, EJP Instructor
Carol Symes, a faculty member in UIUC’s History Department, attended an EJP informational session in 2010 and was so moved by the testimonials of EJP instructors that she instantly began planning a course of her own. “Shakespeare’s World” aimed to introduce Danville students not only to Shakespeare’s plays but also to the historical contexts in which he lived and worked. “I felt that the plays of Shakespeare are so rich that there would be so many points of entry for my students,” she explains.
“A number of them were nervous [about taking the course],” Carol recalls, citing their worries that they would not be able to understand Shakespeare’s language. However, within a few weeks they were comfortable not only reading the plays but also performing the parts. They decided to produce a play of their own, a 90-minute compilation of Shakespearean scenes titled Our Play.
“It was a huge labor for the students to turn themselves into Shakespearean actors. The experience of grappling with the plays and getting up and doing it gave them a tremendous sense of self confidence.” Writing and performing the play also encouraged a sense of teamwork, Carol adds, and relates that many of her students now want to start performance groups back in their neighborhoods.
Carol continues her work with EJP as coordinator of its new Theatre Initiative, currently producing The Tempest. She explains of her engagement with EJP, “it’s one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done.”