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English classes take to the stage at Goshen High School

Two adults interact with a group of students on stage.

The Goshen High School Roy Reese Auditorium premiered an exciting and innovative learning experience on Friday, February 28.

Freshmen and juniors in Jennifer Viscardo’s English classes stepped onto the stage to connect with the language, characters and universal themes of William Shakespeare through interactive workshops guided by artist educators with Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival (HVSF). 

The HVSF educational workshops are designed to help students understand Shakespeare’s work through hands-on, performance-driven activities that entertain and educate, while building students’ self-confidence and self-esteem.

Students sit in a circle on stage with their back toward the auditorium. They are looking at two students performing lines from a play.“Students come with varying levels of familiarity with Shakespeare,” said Bradley Dinguid, an educator with HVSF who is also a teacher, writer and director. “The performance-based games and activities are chosen to help students get comfortable with reading Shakespeare out loud. Then we take the words out of context to allow them to find their own meaning and their own voice in the age-old texts.” 

Mr. Dinguid worked with Goshen students alongside fellow educator Juliana Giannasca, herself a student of acting and musical theater at SUNY Purchase.Students sit in a circle on stage with their back toward the auditorium. They are looking at two students performing lines from a play. The students have their arms raised.

Following a series of exercises and games often used by actors as performance warm-ups, students were handed short phrases from two plays and worked in groups to bring them to life from their unique point of view. 

For ninth-graders in Mrs. Viscardo’s English honors class, the workshop served as an introduction to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Juniors, on the other hand, had just completed their studies of Macbeth and the workshop served as a next step in the learning process.   

“The junior class is already familiar with Macbeth so this is an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the play and its characters,” Mrs. Viscardo said. 

Students standing around a stage. One is holding a card and expressing an emotion. The others are watching him trying to guess the emotion.Four workshops into the day-long program, Mrs. Viscardo was already observing its impact. 

“I’m seeing shy kids come to life and interacting with students they might not connect with otherwise. But above all, this program gets students in an active learning mode and helps them see that learning can happen in any part of the building,” Mrs. Viscardo said. 

A tenth-grade group in Dr. Evelyn Schneider English class also participated in the Shakespeare workshops.