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The play is the thing

Kent Driscoll
Northern News Services

Baker Lake (Dec 05/05) - Mention William Shakespeare to high school students and they will generally roll their eyes. Most can't see what a dead playwright can teach them.

In Baker Lake, students have claimed Shakespeare for their own.

Hamlet is full of heavy themes: murder, ghosts, political intrigue and love. The first scene of Hamlet gets the kids in Baker Lake talking.

Lynn Goodwin is their English teacher, and when Hamlet contemplates suicide at the beginning of the play, her students pay attention.

"We learned life lessons (from Hamlet). We also learned that if you want, things can happen," said student Dwayne Haqpi.

The themes in MacBeth are universal; the quest for power crosses all cultures. Goodwin uses an Inuit movie to help make the connection.

"I think MacBeth ties into Atanarjuat The Fast Runner. You can take things from these plays," said Goodwin.

Music is one of the tools Goodwin uses to bring Shakespeare to life for the students. Using the play like a movie, students develop their own soundtrack. They have to explain why each song fits the scene.

"We get everything from Pink to Tupac to classical music. They have to try and justify why they chose that song," said Goodwin.

The students and their teacher did break one of the basic rules of Shakespeare: you aren't supposed to say MacBeth's name out loud.

"We said it all the time," laughed Goodwin. "If we were going to stage it, we would follow the rule."

Shakespeare was written to be performed, and Goodwin's students took that to heart.

Three of her senior students - Haqpi, Casimir Tunguaq, and Moses Niuqtuq translated a scene from Hamlet into Inuktitut.

They then performed it for the class.

"It doesn't sound any different; the rhythm is the same. Those boys showed a lot of guts getting up there in front of their classmates," said Goodwin.

"I wasn't nervous, it was just our classmates," said Tunguaq.

They worked hard on it for nearly a month. "We translated it because nobody had ever done that before," explained Niuqtuq.

As for their choice of scene, there is a simple answer.

"There were three guys in that scene and three of us," explained Haqpi.