Throughout the year, NYCEA board members and participants will write short blog posts describing memorable NYCEA moments. To kick-start this series, our current president, Deborah VanderBilt, offers some reflections and memories about the 2014 keynote address, delivered by the Folger Shakespeare Institute's Peggy O'Brien. In Deb's words:
A highlight of my NYCEA experience was the plenary given by Dr. Peggy O’Brien, then the Education Director of the Folger Shakespeare Library in 2014. She talked about the use of Shakespeare at all levels of education from primary to graduate studies, but then took us all through an acting exercise from Julius Caesar. It wasn’t focused on reading the play; she told us to let that go. And she didn’t direct us, but let each person do what each of us thought would make sense given the “script” of the play. Instead of the lines she asked us to listen to the tones in our voices … the location of our bodies in relation to each other … the clusters that seemed to organically form in the group.
It was a fascinating exercise, especially when she compared what had happened with our group to a group of fifth-graders she had worked with earlier that year! But what made it great was the group. We’d spent about 24 hours together by that point, a relatively small group of conferences, in and out of rooms in shifting clusters. Most of us took part in that exercise. Peggy was more than our speaker; by the end of the exercise, she was our colleague. The small size of the NYCEA conference and the shared interests and love of teaching of the group leads to experiences like this every single year for me.
Image of Peggy O'Brien running a similar workshop at Arizona State University; this photo can be found at Arizona State University's website.
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