Thursday, October 5, 2006

Teaching Tips for the Frustrated Thespian

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw

Mike Madison over at has posted the kind of party game I can't resist - favorite "law and..." movies.  He brings a - how do I say this? - a delightful kind of non-linear thinking to his list.

His listing of Shakespeare in Love as his favorite copyright movie reminded me I wanted to follow up on something.  Some weeks ago, over on Conglomerate, I made some fairly snarky comments about the use of certain movie clips as pedagogical tools.  Here's an admission that a foolish consistency, blah, blah, blah.... 

I was working out on the Stairmaster several weeks ago, and to relieve the tedium I usually put on a DVD.  I happened to grab Shakespeare in Love, watched the first scene, and realized it was the perfect lead-in to the class I was prepping at the time:  introduction to partnership.  I thought about playing the clip, but it meant more technology set up than I wanted to deal with, and then the light went on:  we would act it out in class.  I hope it was fair use, but now imagine the scene.  Professor Lipshaw enlists three of his "on-call" students to come down to the front.  The professor takes the Geoffrey Rush role of Henshaw, the owner of the Rose Theatre, who is being tortured (feet in the coals) by his moneylender, Fennyman, Fennyman's accountant, and a thug (played by the coerced students).  (We had a limited set, so I lay down on the front row bench and squawked loudly.)  Henshaw gets out of his predicament by offering Fennyman not a deferred and fixed payment (debt), but a partnership interest (equity).  And the story proceeds from there.  Not only do we have a pedagogical introduction to the motivations for partnership (additional risk, but additional return); another benefit is that the professor quickly gets a reputation as something of a loon, capable of doing strange things in class on a moment's notice, and this seems to have a salutary effect on attendance.

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Jeff left out the real point about the [rest of the] story [he did not tell you] quite apart from the pedagogic mumbo jumbo.

Period costume hats to teach partnership via acting out Rush scene from Shakespeare in Love: $55.00.

Per student tuition price at ritzy private school for 20 minutes 'invested' in watching classmates and professors act out scene: $125.00.

Look on the face of very senior & chaired old-school professor from ritzy school happening to be passing by back window to classroom at time: Priceless.

Posted by: Alan Childress | Oct 5, 2006 7:35:18 AM

I wish Alan's comment were a mere joke. He forgot to add "former dean" to the description.

A couple weeks later when we acted out a scene from Hook (between Hook and Peter Banning, now a lawyer) in observance of International Speak Like A Pirate Day, I thought I skated through undetected (I was wearing a folded newspaper pirate hat), but one of the associate deans was looking in (as I learned from her later).

Posted by: Jeff Lipshaw | Oct 5, 2006 9:34:57 AM

Obviously a fetish for movies with Gwyneth Paltrow. Next up: use of 'Sliding Doors' to prove chaos theory and the indeterminancy of determination assuming the initial if not ultimate determinance of indeterminancy. I hope the dean who signs the paycheck wanders by about then. Then: 'Proof' to show that old tenured professors are acceptably insane.

Posted by: Alan Childress | Oct 5, 2006 10:08:25 AM

Very creative idea! There should be a sort of wiki collecting these things. My colleague PAula Franzese did a fun piece at AALS last year on creative pedagogy.

Posted by: Frank | Oct 5, 2006 10:39:40 AM

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