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Teacher Profile: Marlene May

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The Bronx is burning with a love of Shakespeare! Marlene May, who teaches Theater at Fordham High School for the Arts, attended the 2012 Shakespeare Set Free Institutes in NYC as a Karen Jeff Scholar. Enthused and energized by her experience, May partnered with Matt McGraw in the English Department at FHSA to organize their first annual Shakespeare Competition.  

SSF brings together English and Drama teachers for an intensive program of workshops, lectures and curriculum planning sessions that focus on performance-based approaches to teaching Shakespeare. Working closely with teachers with expertise in analysis during SSF was eye-opening for May, whose experience is with performance. "I recall my own excitement figuring out the meaning of the words, investigating the imagery and interpreting the heightened language. I promised myself I would bring more of this kind of analytical work back to the classroom once school was in session."  

May and McGraw took an unusual approach to the Shakespeare Competition, challenging their 11th-grade drama majors to tackle the sonnets. Since they had studied scansion their freshman year, May was confident the students would be able to rise to the occasion. She assigned each student a sonnet, having them memorize it first by couplet, then by quatrain. McGraw then met individually with each student to analyze the literary devices embedded in the poetry and identify the state of being of the character speaking in the sonnet.

"The students found memorizing, analyzing and interpreting the sonnets challenging - a challenge they took to heart, and worked on with passion and commitment, " May recalled. As a follow up, she will assign all 20 students in her class one of the monologues from the ESU compendium. Only the winner will perform it competitively, but all of them will have the sonnets and the monologues in their college audition portfolios.


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