Author Archives: Julia

Holding Up The Mirror: Authenticity and Adaptation in Shakespeare Today

On Friday April 22 — just a day before the Bard’s birthday — the Theatre Library Association held a daylong symposium for librarians as well as practitioners interested in the works of William Shakespeare. The event, called Holding Up the Mirror: Authenticity and Adaptation in Shakespeare Today, brought together writers, directors, producers and designers who have worked to bring excitement and vitality to modern Shakespearean productions. Interestingly enough for a library symposium, the discussion of Shakespeare in libraries and archives was limited: the focus here was on Shakespeare in performance.

  • Performing Shakespeare in 2011 — Why? How? For Whom?
         Oskar Eustis, director of New York’s Public Theater (responsible for the annual Shakespeare in the Park productions at the Delacorte), gave a charismatic keynote address early in the day. Eustis discussed why Shakespeare is a cultural touchstone for our society, and why continued production of his works is a vitally important goal. Though many have the idea “that Shakespeare is an elevating force — make the savages one of us,” Eustis offered an alternate philosophy: “By inviting Shakespeare, you are inviting a larger cultural conversation.”
         Eustis also connected Shakespeare to the world of libraries, reminding the audience that the Public Theater’s downtown home is the former location of the Astor Free Library.
  • A Mirror of Our Times: Uncovering Connections Between Shakespeare and Our World
         A producer, designer and director for Theatre for a New Audience, a modern Shakespearean theater company based in New York, presented the first panel discussion of the day. Artistic director Jeffrey Horowitz presented a history of TFANA’s development, from being told in 1979 not to bother creating a company, since “Joe Papp ‘owned’ Shakespeare,” to the company’s current project of building a new theatre in Brooklyn. He also presented a series of photographs of TFANA productions such as Macbeth and Othello, explaining in depth why specific choices were made in terms of design and direction.
         The panel members also discussed TFANA’s outreach efforts: “Nothing is watered down or shortened,” they noted, with the exception of eliminating nudity in production. Kids don’t read the plays before coming to see them; rather, they play games related to the production themes and act out certain scenes. The goal is to teach kids “Shakespeare as performance, not literature.”
  • The Mirror Image: Shakespeare in Authentic Style
         The most entertaining discussion of the day might well have been the first session after lunch, a presentation from the American Shakespeare Center. The American Shakespeare Center is a touring and repertory troupe based in Staunton, Virginia, who has been performing classic dramas in the Elizabeth style (read: with the house lights on) in their Blackfriars Playhouse since 2001. Ralph Allen Cohen, director of Mission at ASC, noted that the goal here is to “explore early modern staging conditions for a better understanding of plays written with those conditions in mind.” With house lights on, audience members are more apt to be distracted, but Cohen argued (through a series of humorous paintings through time) that this is a longstanding theatrical tradition. “I am no longer afraid fo the inattentive audience member,” he said. Director Paul Menzer and fight choreographer Colleen Kelly also discussed the challenges of creating vibrant theatre in a space unlike most American playhouses.
  • Through the Looking Glass: Shakespeare in Contemporary Adaptation
         Diane Paulus, artistic director of Boston’s American Repertory Theatre, joined Shakespeare scholar Marjorie Garber and actress Careena Melia in a discussion of Shakespeare Exploded, a festival presented in 2009-2010 of works based on Shakespearean plays. Though the three plays presented — Sleep No More (currently in production in New York City), The Donkey Show and The Best of Both Worlds — don’t feature any of Shakespeare’s text, they are deeply inspired by his works. Paulus said that she looks to explore new relationships between audience and production, which is why The Donkey Show and Sleep No More are such highly interactive theatrical events.

The day closed with remarks from Francesca Marini, the Archives Director at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. Marini tied together many of the themes discussed throughout the symposium as well as her work at the Stratford Festival archives. Best of all, she showed terrific footage of productions throughout Stratford’s fifty-year history.

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One good turn deserves another: Arming instruction librarians with the necessary arsenal

Thanks to scheduling and traffic problems, I was only able to attend one session at the 2011 ACRL conference in Philadelphia. Even so, the experience was a useful introduction to the ins and outs of library conferences: lanyards, ribbons, poster sessions and even table discussions were all new to me. The session I chose was one particularly relevant to me at this stage of my career: teaching new librarians how to engage students during information literacy instruction sessions.

SUNY-Geneseo reference and instruction librarians Kim Davies-Hoffman and Michelle Costello, who recently won the ACRL Innovation Award, presented an interactive session on how they have worked to arm librarians with the pedagogical tools they need to effectively instruct students. The goal: to foster active learning in the library setting.

Initially, Davies-Hoffman and Costello spoke about their pedagogical philosophy to groups of librarians all over New York State. The project expanded, however, to “Teaching Tips from the Trenches,” a one-day workshop for librarians with three or less years of experience. The next step was what Costello and Davies-Hoffman called “Teaching it Forward:” in which the students of “Teaching Tips” became the teachers at the  SUNYLA annual conference. Finally, Davies and Costello developed a semester-long course entitled LILAC (Library Instruction Leadership Academy), which offered formalized mentorship and pedagogical theory for any librarians interested in becoming better instructors.

Throughout the presentation, Davies-Hoffman and Costello encouraged attendees to interact with each other and brainstorm. The exercises clearly echoed their interactive approach to instruction.  “We have soft voices,” they joked. “Maybe that’s why we gravitate toward active learning.”

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It’s Not Netflix: Licensing and Streaming Films via the Library

The recent introduction of a film studies minor to Baruch’s Weissman School of the Arts and Sciences had particular implications for the librarians at Baruch. Demand for viewing shot up, and the commuter-heavy student body couldn’t always come to the library and watch the film in the dedicated viewing room. As Newman librarian Amanda Timolat said, “The model of having one DVD to go look at in the viewing room was no longer feasible.” How, then, could the library support its students?

When a professor suggested streaming, Timolat embarked on what has turned out to be quite an impressive project. Simply reformatting the DVDs and posting them online was not an option: as UCLA has recently discovered, such actions might quickly lead to legal action from the distributor. Timolat therefore set out with a question: “Can I purchase the streaming rights as opposed to public performance rights?”

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Web 2.0 Technologies for Online and Hybrid Teaching

The central thesis in Linda W. Friedman‘s presentation on new models for online and hybrid learning can be summed up in three words: “Everything is changing,” as she remarked early on. Friedman is a professor at Baruch’s Zicklin School of Business, which has made online and hybrid courses a priority. According to Friedman, all these changing paradigms in education — “The whole notion of a lecture is so outdated” — mean that people are learning in new ways, and teachers need to work hard to facilitate active learning.

“When it comes to social media technologies, the defining paradigm is a mashup.” Friedman recommended a mishmash of technologies that foster what she calls the five C’s of Web 2.0: communication, collaboration, community, creativity, and convergence. She also  offered a number of practical insights for teachers concerned about how to implement Web 2.0 strategies in the classroom. A few highlights of her discussion points:

  • The Baruch New Media wiki, offered for the sections of the Principles of New Media course, offers information on assignments, links to fellow student blogs, syllabi, and many other materials than can be continually accessed and updated by students in the course. The wiki is persistent, so that every semester it can be improved by the students in the course. Certain pages can only be edited by professors.
  • Friedman expressed reservations about the Blackboard course management system and its interactive capabilities: “Blackboard is set up for discussion. It’s easy to grade. It’s just not cool.” Nevertheless, there is real value in using some of their functionality, particularly for bulletin boards: “People who won’t participate in in-class discussions often participate online.”
  • Youtube is also handy for posting lectures as well as presentations. So much so, in fact, that students have asked her after in-person lectures if “the reruns would be posted online?”

Finally, there was also a mention of libraries in Friedman’s presentation. Libraries are no longer merely structures where books are kept — they now help us with information navigation. “Does anyone know what the Dewey Decimal System even is anymore?” she wondered.

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An Overview of e-Book Initiatives at Baruch College

The first session I attended at the 2011 Baruch Teaching and Technology Conference was a subject of great interest to librarians: e-books. Head Librarian Arthur Downing at Baruch’s Newman Library began his presentation by telling us that online books were nothing new for Baruch librarians, who have been working to create free online resources for the last decade. But they still don’t claim to have all the answers: “The aim of the session is not to give you a grand strategy we have worked out,” he reminded us. Instead, they focused on a few interesting initiatives they’ve worked on these past few years.

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