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Fort Stockton Pioneer, December 28, 2009

"Dallas man brings Shakespeare to life.

William Shakespeare was born in April 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon, England.

Before his death in April 1616, he wrote a canon of literature that would lead to him being regarded as arguably the greatest writer in the English language, and his plays have been translated into nearly every language on the planet.

His words infuse the very language we speak, but yet many are unfamiliar with Shakespeare, particularly students.

That then is the task of Robert Clover-Brown, a transplanted Londoner who's lived in Dallas since 2002 - to bring awareness and to create interest in a man who lived 400 years ago.

“The reason I'm here is to expose the kids to something they're not normally exposed to,” Clover-Brown said. “If they go away with a little more interest in Shakespeare, then it's not wasted time.”

It's easy enough to learn the details of Shakespeare - when he was born, when he died, who he married, how many children he had, how many plays and sonnets he wrote, etc.

Dead facts as they're sometimes called, but Clover-Brown was in Fort Stockton Dec. 15-16 to bring Shakespeare to life for students at Apache Elementary School, Fort Stockton Intermediate School and Fort Stockton Middle School.

Clover-Brown's trip to West Texas, which also included visits to Alpine and Marfa, was sponsored in part by the Texas Commission on the Arts, for whom he's a touring artist, and the Fort Stockton Independent School District.

For nearly two entire school days, Clover-Brown gave presentations as Shakespeare to Fort Stockton students, hoping to create the interest that will lead students to study him further.

“I want to make a connection,” Clover-Brown said. “Meeting me as Shakespeare can get them interested in Shakespeare. It does seem to work in those situations. I know from the looks in their eyes.”

He presented some of the “dead facts,” but Clover-Brown also went interactive with the students. Instead of just reading, he got students to volunteer to read with him.

He talked about the clothes he wore as he portrayed Shakespeare. There were props and even some mass student participation.

“I thought it was a very worthwhile day,” said Pat Barrett, an FSMS reading and language arts teacher. “I think for the most part the students really enjoyed it.”

Clover-Brown, a history graduate of Cambridge University, had a knack for looking like Shakespeare and that got him print and television advertisements through a London casting agency.

The idea to “be” Shakespeare came to fruition after he moved to Dallas with his Texas-born wife Lesley and their two children. Following the move, he taught drama and history at the Cambridge School, coincidentally, and decided to try the Shakespeare Man presentation on a group of Metroplex fifth-graders in an effort to get them interested in Shakespeare.

It worked, and Clover-Brown has been travelling across North Texas, but also as far afield as Odessa, to give presentations.

“I've been imbued in Shakespeare's plays all my life,” he said, “being in them, seeing them. I can bring him to life.”

The presentations actually vary, though, he said. How he presents the “dead facts” and the interactive elements differ depending upon how old the audience is and how much Shakespeare knowledge he believes them to have.

How much his audiences know about Shakespeare and his works does vary, Clover-Brown said. He said it would be a false assumption that all students are ignorant of the man and what he wrote.

Barrett agreed. She said some of her students even know some of the plots of Shakespeare's plays.

“I've been amazed at how much they know,” Clover-Brown said. “There are third- through fifth-graders who have heard of Shakespeare. He is everywhere. They've picked him up in ways they haven't even realized.”

Added Barrett: “He presents a side of Shakespeare they may have never seen. He brought him to life.

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