On Thursday, I was lucky enough to be able to take all of my Seniors -- 61 of them -- to the Folger Shakespeare Library to see their production of Othello. I decided on the field trip back in the spring and chose the play as part of my curriculum when I saw they were producing it.
The play itself was tremendous -- great production on an intimate setting, an interesting (but not overpowering) theme of redemption and Christianity since it was set during the Crusades. I loved how the production made Bianca a more central character than productions normally do; her character adds to the 'outcast' nature of the play. The acting was tremendous by all the principle cast members.
And the students loved it. Almost universally, they commented on how powerful the production was, on how it helped them understand the play better. On Friday, we had a great discussion about the choices the directors made and what themes these choices emphasized. Once again, I was reminded how important it is to see Shakespeare live, and how beneficial it is for the students. I was able to bring my students to the Folger two years ago to see Much Ado About Nothing, and had a similar experience.
The one bad taste in my mouth is the cost for the students. $20 for the seat was okay, but a $14 round-trip MARC train ticket skyrocketed the per-student cost to $34/each. This was a surprise, since just two years ago, the MARC train offered a group rate of $7 for students on trips such as these. In the two years since then, they have changed the policy so group rates apply to Mondays and Fridays only. In addition, there is a group rate for students, but it only applies to college students with an Advantage card -- not high school students.
This really burns me up, since I work at a school with a high poverty rate and many of these students had never experienced anything quite like this trip before. A nice woman interacting with me from Maryland Transportation Authority apologized profusedly, but couldn't/didn't change the price back to group rates, despite the fact that matinees for shows such as these are never offered on Mondays or Fridays.
So, a big 'boo' to the MARC train. This isn't about crowded trains; it's about money. The end result isn't that we didn't take the train; the end result was, rather, that a bunch of students, many of them poor, had to pay much more for a field trip than they would have under the old policy. Boo to MARC train folks who changed this policy. Flat and simple.
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