14th April 2000 at 01:00
This week's theme is times past, present and future. Whatever you think about Patricia Rozema's new film of Mansfield Park, with its anachronistically funky heroine and energetic sex scene, the message of its release is clear - the frock flick is back.

The upside of high-profile adaptations is that pupils may be inspired to read the novel. The downside is that teachers should prepare themselves for a rash of essays that see Austen's heroine, Fanny Price, not as a pious reader of improving literature but as an early example of Girl Power.

An equally imaginative but much less anachronistic approach is that of the English Touring Theatre's production of Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, which stars Prunella Scales and injects a much-needed spark of colour and light comedy into what can be a depressingly solemn play.

As well as running workshops about Stanislavski and naturalism, which tie in with the theatrical context of the play, the ETT's education department is also pioneering Practitioners Unplugged, an innovative series of tailor-made events for schools.

The full-day workshops aim to provide a taste of what makes theatre special by relating the ideas of the great 20th-century theorists - Stanislavski, Artaud and Brecht - to the practicalities of acting.

Whether pitched at GCSE pupils or A-level, the workshops are tailored to the needs of teachers and the curriculum. "We want to take theory away from the books and give pupils a real sense of theatre," says head of education Angela Chrimes. Tel: 01270 501 800.

Chekhov's aristocrats come from an era that was blown away by the First World War. Wimbledon's Polka Theatre is well aware of how difficult it can be to teach the history of the 19th century, so its revival for the Easter holidays of Jacqueline Wilson's The Lottie Project aims to inject a sense of excitement into that period. "I wanted to make children see that the Victorians were just ordinary people with different sorts of problems," says Wilson.

Following 11-year-old Charlotte ("Call me Charlie") Enright's discovery of the past through the life of her Victorian doppelganger Charlotte ("Call me Lottie), the play is sepia-tinted in appearance but modern in language. On April 29, the theatre holds a Polka Day, with workshops for eight to 11-year-olds. Tel: 020 8543 4888.

If the past is always another country, what about the future? The Art of Star Wars exhbition at London's Barbican Centre (until September 3) is, like the George Lucas films on which it is based, a blockbuster.

Familiar characters, such as C-3PO, Darth Vader and Yoda, greet you as you enter its stunning environment - darkened and full of doomy noises. Exhibits include artwork, models, visual effects and costumes (including Queen Amidala's gorgeous gowns) and give a good idea of the design skills need to create a sci-fi film. Children will enjoy the interactive exhibits as well as their free activity bags (small duffel bags with worksheets).

Children of all ages interested in how the Star Wars series was designed can hear Anthony Daniels (the voice behind C-3PO) talk to Iain McCaig and Lorne Peterson from Lucasfilm about the art of making the future spring to life, at 1pm on April 15. Tel: 020 7638 8891.

Finding fresh ways into the increasingly distant world of Shakespeare is a challenge which has been taken up by the Royal National Theatre, whose Primary Shakespeare project culminated in a series of presentation days at the National in the first week of April. Involving 12 London schools, the project introduced nine to 11-year-olds to the language of the Bard through activities based on Romeo and Juliet.

These included acting out the Capulets' ball and the fight scenes, making up recipes for poisonous potions, writing to agony aunts and interviews with the families of the dead lovers. For details of similar future projects, contact Rachel Dickinson on 020 7452 3311.

Children of today also star in 1000 by 2000 (until June 30) at the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood, billed as Britain's biggest ever exhibition of photographs of children (look out for them at your local Gap Kids branch too). Taken by Stefano Azario, the 1,000 pictures are of five to 10-year-olds from every corner of the UK. "I photographed eyes, faces, heads and bodies - some with no sign of the times, others inextricably linked to our era," he says. "I hope the photographs speak for themselves and that people visiting the exhibition will see the high expectations placed on children in the 21st century."

The exhibition also features workshops for children to take their own portraits using the latest digital cameras. Time to get snapping over Easter. Proceeds to The Children's Society. Tel: 020 8983 5227. Details of Azario's book of the exhibition, 1000x2000, are on

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