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  • Vive Griffith

Introducing the CGA Project Showcase

A Zoom meeting of "Shakespeare and the Common Good"

When Jonathan Shelley was designing his “Shakespeare and the Common Good” classes for Clemente alumni in Atlanta, he had a clear goal: to bring student voices and perspectives to the curriculum, shaping the way Shakespeare and the humanities are taught in the future in nontraditional education settings. Now a new website, the CGA Project Showcase, is helping him do just that.

Jonathan taught a sequence of Shakespeare classes during 2020 and 2021 to Clemente graduates of Common Good Atlanta (CGA), a project supported by a grant from the Whiting Foundation. Over three semesters students explored Shakespeare’s plays and poems in collaboration with the Shakespeare Tavern. The classes were lively and engaged, even though they were offered virtually. The students sustained a deep conversation and experimented with performance as well as interpretation.

Underlying the course were a few key questions: What does Shakespeare have to offer to adult students, particularly students like those served by CGA who are or have been incarcerated? And how can students help create materials for shaping how Shakespeare is taught in future courses?

In considering the first question, student Julius Campbell wrote:

After reading The Tempest, it was easy to see that no matter what era you exist in, we all experience life ISSUES. Whether it is dealing with the fear of death, the shame of your past, or the isolation of friendlessness, we have all been there at one point in our lives. As a Returning Citizen recently returning home from a 26-year prison sentence, I can confidently say that I have experienced each of these feelings at one time or another in my life.

The second question is answered in the new website. The CGA Project Showcase gathers student reflections, creative work, and pedagogical materials for use in teaching Shakespeare in other settings. It includes a trivia game focused on Shakespeare, an interview with actor Harry Lennix, who appeared in the Julie Taymor film adaptation of Titus Andronicus, and an assignment for writing sonnets.

Students in Georgia Tech’s Computer Science program designed the site as part of a capstone project. They jumped in head-first, interviewing Clemente students, visiting classes, and sharing protypes. The final product places a spotlight on student work and voices while instructors on how to create dynamic and inclusive curricula to bring The Bard to new audiences.

Though Jonathan will be leaving Clemente and Atlanta to take a new faculty position in Rochester, New York, the CGA Project Showcase is only beginning. The website is built to expand to include more work, including video and multimedia content. “My genuine desire is for it to grow as more Clemente courses happen,” Jonathan says. “It acknowledges and creates a record of the important work we’ve done together.”

** Read more about "Shakespeare and the Common Good" in our Winter 2021 newsletter.

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