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  • Dallas Klein, Free Minds Austin

Free Minds Shakespeareans Take the (Virtual) Stage

In Austin's Clemente affiliate, Free Minds, program graduates have a unique way of coming together this spring, care of a committed educator and a 16th century bard. Dallas Klein, Free Minds Community Liaison, tells us more.

Free Minds students take on Shakespeare in a pre-pandemic class photo

This spring Free Minds is proudly hosting a virtual Shakespeare workshop led by University of Texas’ Shakespeare at Winedale Outreach Coordinator Clayton Stromberger. For this 10 week workshop, Free Minds graduates—from our first year of programming to our most recent cohort—will be tuning in to look at monologues and speeches from Shakespeare’s vast repertoire.

Each participant joins with their own connection to Shakespeare. During the group’s first gathering, DeAnna Guilbeau (’16) explained, “I saw my first Shakespeare play when I was 8. It was Othello. As an adult, I recognize it was a heavy thing for a kid to be watching. But as a little Black girl it was one of the first times I saw a Black man in a position of power. My love of Shakespeare began that moment. I was hooked.”

The first monologue the group is acting out comes from one of Shakespeare’s lesser known works, a scene from a play called Sir Thomas More. The play premiered from 1591-93 and was written by a handful of playwrights. One of the major themes in the play is Elizabethan era xenophobia, but Free Minds Shakespeareans quickly and astutely recognized the monologue’s relevance to our current political climate in the United States.

Stromberger (c) brings the Bard to Free Minds each fall

“Wash your foul minds with tears, and those same hands,/ That you like rebels lift against the peace,/ Lift up for peace,” participants proclaimed with great gusto! More’s urgent plea for humanity rang through each of our screens, and we realized—during this divisive time in our country’s history—Shakespeare’s words mean more than ever.

Up next, these Shakespeareans will dig into a portion of Hamlet. Some of the workshop’s participants even remember seeing this play during their fall semester in Free Minds. The group will continue practicing lines, getting comfortable with Shakespearean rhythms and finding ways to bring the language to life. All their practice will build up to a virtual performance the group hopes to record and share amongst our community. We are sure this workshop’s rendition will elicit a standing ovation.

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