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Experiencing Shakespeare: From Page to Stage

Experience Shakespeare’s plays from the other side of the stage with a rare peek behind the curtain to see how productions are brought to life for the modern audience.
Experiencing Shakespeare: From Page to Stage is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 6.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from I've never cared about Shakespeare until now. Anytime I read (or hear) a "doth" or "thou," I usually tune out. So my expectations were low going into this course. But I absolutely LOVED the breakdown of Shakespeare's words and how actors go from table readings to performance. (another reviewer was upset that the actors "didn't know their lines" in the earlier sections.. but that was the point! It showed the progression.) This gave me a much more profound respect for the plays than I had in high school when I was forced to read them. Now I want to go watch a Shakespeare play!
Date published: 2022-11-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Comments from a learner This is a good little introduction to Shakespeare. Got me wanting to read one of his plays!
Date published: 2022-11-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic Take on Shakespeare I love anything to do with Shakespeare and so I jumped on this course when I first saw it offered. I was not disappointed. Alissa Branch was the perfect host and Kam and Brooke were excellent as they demonstrated what it takes to bring Shakepeare from page to stage. The final lesson with the actors doing the scenes they'd been rehearsing throughout was wonderful. This is one of my favorite Great Courses ever ... and I've watched many. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2022-11-19
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A bad choice to use student readers The professor chose to have student readers for Shakespearean passages. But if these students intend to be professional actors, I don't understand why they did not memorize their lines. They are also poorly recited, in my opinion, even when read. Why have student readers at all? It is very distracting and off-putting for the viewer. I enjoy watching the other courses on Shakespeare over and over. I can barely get through this even once.
Date published: 2022-11-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The course was well done, the young actors as well as Prof. Branch were excellent guides to understanding the intricacies of putting on a Shakespearean play. I thought the lecture series could be longer with more details in working out the nuances of presenting Shakespeare. When compared with the rehearsals of the Royal Shakespeare Company, a BBC series that was presented many years ago, it was lacking more depth.
Date published: 2022-11-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great complement to other Shakespeare offerings This new course is a worthy complement to other earlier Great Courses Shakespeare offerings. These earlier offerings ably analyze the text of Shakespeare plays but spend little ton on acting and staging them. "Experiencing Shakespeare" fills this void with an engaging step-by-step approach to the production of his plays. The course benefits from opening monologues by an experienced Shakespearean actor and by two young actors who work with the lecturer on understanding the characters and staging scenes. The course ends with the two actors' compelling staging of scenes from four plays.
Date published: 2022-11-11
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Our 12-lesson series, Experiencing Shakespeare: From Page to Stage, gives you a rare insider’s peek behind the curtains of a Shakespeare production. Expert Alissa Branch will help you decode the tools Shakespeare embedded in his words for actors to understand his plays and bring them to life. With glimpses into Shakespeare's life and culture, you’ll get a richer appreciation for the genius behind his words.


Alissa Branch

The word 'play' implies an action, and experiencing a play is meant to be an active, playful experience, not a passive one—for both the performers and the audience.


University of Oklahoma

Alissa Branch is an Associate Professor of Acting in the Helmerich School of Drama at the University of Oklahoma, where she created an advanced Shakespeare performance curriculum. She is also an actor and director whose productions have won multiple Kennedy Center awards. Her directorial credits include Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and Twelfth Night, among other plays. She has studied acting at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts and Shakespeare’s Globe, and she earned her MA in Drama from Washington University in St. Louis.

By This Professor

Experiencing Shakespeare: From Page to Stage
Experiencing Shakespeare: From Page to Stage


Reading versus Watching Shakespeare

01: Reading versus Watching Shakespeare

Because so little is known about him, the written words of Shakespeare are our ultimate guide to performing his plays. Join Professor Alissa Branch and dive behind the scenes to find out why, more than 400 years after his death, his plays persist in being among the most staged.

26 min
Plays in the Elizabethan Age

02: Plays in the Elizabethan Age

Shakespeare may have been a genius, but he was no god pouring out sacred texts. He was a hustling playwright working hard to please commoners, aristocracy, and royalty, all at once. Learn about theater culture in the Elizabethan era to get a deeper, humanized understanding of his texts for performance purposes.

25 min
Secrets of Shakespeare’s Verse

03: Secrets of Shakespeare’s Verse

Is there a secret to decoding Shakespeare's verse to bring it to life on a stage? Learn the brilliant tricks that Shakespeare used to give clues and hints to actors, including his use of iambic pentameter—a rhythm that is embedded into our bodies and translates naturally into the flow of the English language—as well as tools like antithesis within the words themselves.

23 min
Discovering Shakespeare’s Characters

04: Discovering Shakespeare’s Characters

The modern actor uses newer psychological tools to decide how to play their roles, yet human troubles remain the same through the ages. Because Shakespeare's characters say exactly what they want, the key for actors is to pay attention to Shakespeare’s words when deciding how to emote and move.

30 min
Shakespearean Rhetoric and Wordplay

05: Shakespearean Rhetoric and Wordplay

Because Shakespeare's words are his characters, it is vital to examine how he makes use of rhetoric to inform actors on how to make the characters come alive. There is a myriad of ways this rhetoric is used, such as prose vs. verse, emotional arguments vs. logical reasoning, and banter.

21 min
What Soliloquies Reveal

06: What Soliloquies Reveal

Should soliloquies be performed by addressing the audience directly or having the character muse to themselves? Learn from Professor Branch how Shakespeare writes his soliloquies in a way conducive to breaking the “fourth wall” and granting the audience access to the inner workings of the characters' minds.

36 min
How Shakespeare Uses Prose

07: How Shakespeare Uses Prose

Turn your attention from verse, which looks like poetry on a page, to prose. The rules of when and why Shakespeare switches between verse and prose aren't always consistent, but a closer examination of the shifts provides instruction on characters' feelings and behavior toward each other, thus informing the actors' choices.

19 min
Shakespeare’s Creative Imagery

08: Shakespeare’s Creative Imagery

How many different words would you guess Shakespeare used in his body of writing? Not only did he utilize 17,677 words, but he also invented new ones and innovated how they were used—in fact, scientists assert that his work alters the way our brains respond to written words!

18 min
Rehearsing the Role: Shakespeare’s Tragedies

09: Rehearsing the Role: Shakespeare’s Tragedies

Now, take a behind-the-scenes look at the rehearsal process, beginning with an initial read-through, called "table work"; then blocking movement; and, finally, scene repetition. It's worthwhile to note that the illusion of spontaneity that audiences experience during the best onstage performances is actually a result of weeks of practice.

29 min
Rehearsing the Role: Shakespeare’s Comedies

10: Rehearsing the Role: Shakespeare’s Comedies

Shakespearean comedy relies on well-known comic devices that he used in numerous plays, for example, "mistaken identity." As you will see, Shakespeare repeatedly used the device of letting female characters dress up as boys in order to grant them more social agency and cause merry plot misunderstandings.

30 min
Designing and Directing Shakespeare’s Plays

11: Designing and Directing Shakespeare’s Plays

So far, we have focused mainly on the actors' preparation. Now, we will expand our look into the many behind-the-scenes jobs required for a production of this level, from set builders and prop managers to producers and choreographers, with special attention to the costume designer and stage manager.

30 min
To the Stage!

12: To the Stage!

By the time the actors are ready to embody the characters they've been studying, the illusion of the characters' spontaneous thoughts being spoken for the very first time is complete. Enjoy as the team brings this study to culmination by skillfully performing scenes from Julius Caesar, Twelfth Night, and Hamlet.

22 min