The Bard’s influence was front and center during Steward’s April 26 Elizabethan Faire.
Upper School English Teacher Stephanie Arnold
, who spearheaded the carnival-like event for the tenth year, said the Faire was an opportunity to celebrate Shakespeare’s wit, wisdom, and humor — and tie in Steward’s 2021-22 schoolwide theme of play
. It was also an opportune time to celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday: The writer and dramatist was baptized on April 26, 1564.
Under a bright blue sky, students from Lower, Middle, and Upper School enjoyed games (including Nine Men’s Morris, a strategy game similar to tic tac toe that dates back to Roman times), plus Shakespeare-centric arts & crafts, snacks, and music along the Colonnade. There was much merry-making at the costume table, where Spartans donned festive headwear and posed for photos; and students enthusiastically lined up to get glittery “tattoos” and snack on special sweets. On Waddell Terrace, Middle and Upper Schoolers enjoyed a rousing fencing lesson led by Middle School English Teacher Mary Hopkins.
“The Elizabethan Faire is one of my favorite Steward traditions, since it brings together students as they teach each other about Shakespeare’s life and times,” said Ms. Arnold. “This year, I loved seeing the models of London’s Globe Theatre created by students in the fifth grade. I particularly enjoyed the surprises at the Faire, with students like Gates Orgain ’24 dressed as a jester and Nayla Turpin ’22 in her own Elizabethan garb. Another special moment involved Annabel Wang ’22 and Zoe Macgill ’22, who painted a portrait of Shakespeare as spectators watched.”
Nayla said, “I enjoy how Shakespeare incorporated things that were happening in his life into his stories … it allows us to learn more about the time period.” The flowers that Ophelia has in “Hamlet,” she noted, “were [flowers] that people would carry during a funeral during the Elizabethan era. Without the detail Shakespeare put into his writing, we would have missed out on a lot of important historical events.”
Students across all divisions explore the wonders of literature throughout their years at Steward, and Shakespeare’s works are part of that exploration. This semester, fifth-graders enjoyed Shakespeare Week by taking an in-depth look at the Bard’s life and what life was like in the Elizabethan Era by watching animated versions of Shakespeare’s works and playing games of the era. Seventh-graders read “Twelfth Night,” eighth-graders read “The Taming of the Shrew,” and students in both grades traveled to the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton, Virginia on April 27 to view a professional production of “Romeo and Juliet” at the world’s only re-creation of Shakespeare’s indoor theatre. Upper Schoolers also delved into Shakespeare by reading some of his most famous plays.
Nayla said that her interest in Shakespeare really took off when Mac MacDaniel of Elsewhere Shakespeare visited Ms. Arnold’s classroom.
”He talked about Shakespeare from a modern perspective that I cared about such as from feminist and psychological lenses,” said Nayla. “You could feel his passion from the moment he entered the class … and many students [now] have a deeper appreciation for Shakespeare.”
Ms. Arnold is especially thankful to Upper School English Teachers Melissa Calkins, Jessica Conley, Peter Hurley, and Janel Nellen, whose students were deeply involved in making the Faire a success.