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Sheng had other options
Last Edit: Singapore/Fling 08:08 pm EDT 10/16/21
Posted by: Singapore/Fling 08:08 pm EDT 10/16/21
In reply to: re: Showing Olivier’s “Othello” in class. - whereismikeyfl 03:28 pm EDT 10/16/21

Unless I'm teaching a play specifically to have the students learn how to read plays, I also prefer to show them a filmed version. That eliminates some of the barriers to comprehension that occur when we read it, chief among them that when you watch a production, everyone involved has done the work to tell that story clearly, and so you can just take it in and not get lost in your own interpretation. If the goal is to have a discussion about how Verdi turned the play into an opera, then watching the play is the best choice.

BUT... there are other films that are faithful to Shakespeare and tell the story well. I'm quite fond of the Branagh film with Laurence Fishburn, which is more or less the play, with the exception that it reorders a few scenes to make the story stronger and also has a great, silent opening scene that's not in the play but actually sets up the story very well (which can then spark its own conversation about adaptation).

OR if the goal was to have them see the play, why not show them the quite excellent - and very easy to follow - production from the National with Adrian Lester, available on NT At Home?

The point is, Sheng had options and he did not give enough thought to what it would mean to show his students this version, without any preamble or context, and without addressing in their conversations why he had shown them a blackface performance. What's more, it seems like he genuinely didn't even realize these were things he would have to do, which points to larger failings in how he teaches and cares for his students when it comes to questions of race in America. And that, rather than just this one film, is why the students turned against him.
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Previous: re: Showing Olivier’s “Othello” in class. - whereismikeyfl 03:28 pm EDT 10/16/21
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