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Los Angeles Times
Home|Education| Q&A with Shakespeare Consultant Dr. Miranda Johnson-Haddad
Q&A with Shakespeare Consultant Dr. Miranda Johnson-Haddad
By A Noise Within February 11, 2021
You may recognize Dr. Miranda Johnson-Haddad as a scholar who has previously shared her extensive knowledge in Shakespeare and theatre with us at A Noise Within. You may also recognize her name from our playbills and study guides as the author of many insightful commentaries on the plays that we have produced. Now, you have a chance to get to know her beyond the written word!
How were you first introduced to ANW? What has been your role at the organization since then?
I was introduced to ANW in late 2008, when I met Geoff and Julia at a dinner party! I told them that if they ever needed a Shakespeare Consultant to give me a call, and I was thrilled when they did. I started giving pre-performance talks and writing program materials for ANW’s Shakespeare productions, and soon I was teaching the Professional Development workshops. More recently, in addition to my work as an Educator and Consultant, I’ve also served as the Dramaturg for several productions.
How would you describe your style and philosophy as an educator? How do you typically run a class?
Mine is a student-centered approach to teaching, so my classes change depending on who’s learning: middle school and high school students, college undergraduates, fellow teachers, or lifelong learners and older adults. But I usually begin any class by giving an overview of the play and its performance history, and then opening up the discussion to everyone. Effective teaching is always a conversation, and ideally a joyful one!
Why do you love Shakespeare? What made you decide to become a scholar in all things Shakespeare?
I have always loved Shakespeare because his plays have never stopped speaking to people for the last four hundred years, and I’m always impressed by how actors and directors are still finding new ways to interpret and perform the plays. There’s something magical about a playwright whose work never becomes dated or irrelevant.
What’s your favorite Shakespeare play? What’s your favorite play that’s NOT by Shakespeare?
I’m often asked this question, and I usually cheat by naming my favorite play in each genre. So: my favorite Comedy is A Midsummer Night’s Dream; my favorite History is Richard II; my favorite tragedy is Othello; and my favorite Late Romance is The Winter’s Tale. But if I had to pick just one, I’d say The Tempest, because that’s where my name comes from!
My favorite non-Shakespearean play changes all the time, because I’m constantly reading and watching productions of plays, from ancient to contemporary, so it tends to be whatever play I’ve most recently seen that moved me deeply. Right now that’s Gem of the Ocean, by August Wilson, which I saw twice at ANW because I was so affected by it. And I loved the virtual reading that ANW did of Nilo Cruz’s Two Sisters and a Piano. Although I miss being in the theater, I’m learning that virtual performances can be very powerful too.
What else do you enjoy teaching? What do you enjoy learning?
I love teaching any subject that I’m passionate about, but literature and history are my favorites. And like most teachers, I love learning, especially about topics that are new to me, whether it’s the origins of the Blues or what’s trending on TikTok. It’s important to stay curious about the world around us so that we can continue to grow as individuals and to understand each other better. In fact, those are probably the most important lessons that any of us can learn.
We’re incredibly thankful to Dr. Johnson-Haddad for lending us her expertise. If you want to learn under this scholar’s hand in a fun, intimate, and engaging setting, she will be leading several Zoom classes this spring (with a new date added due to popular demand). Learn more about her classes here.