Utopia Becomes a Reality in the Makerspace

By Cailtin O’Leary, Upper School English teacher

Sophomores in Ms. O’Leary’s World Literature course journeyed to an imaginary island in the Mediterranean Sea as they read Shakespeare’s tragicomedy The Tempest. 

After learning about Gonzalo’s utopian vision for the island, students imagined what an ideal society would look like from another character’s perspective. Working in small groups, sophomores wrote speeches using figurative language. Collectively, these speeches engaged with important themes of the play; students were particularly committed to exploring the legacy of colonization on the island, making space for characters-- especially those who are in servitude-- to challenge the problematic status quo and to express their wishes for freedom and a better life on the island.  

In partnership with the Makerspace, sophomores then designed symbolic stage props to accompany their utopian speeches. Students were encouraged to explore different modalities, including laser cutting, vinyl cutting, embroidering, soldering, and sewing. Their final display of stage props-- crowns, chains, magic books, chess games, costumes, etc.-- reflects the sophomores’ close reading of the play in terms of power dynamics, as well as their facility with new technologies.