Well-apparelled April on the heel of limping winter treads — time to look for the first wildflowers of the season and keep an eye out for the latest Shakespeare-in-Education news. Today we examine four expanding or newsworthy educational programs offered by regional festival companies.
A stage combat class at the new Shakespeare Theatre Academy in New Jersey.
Our court shall be a little academe…
Rapiers flashed and clanged in the new rehearsal room at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey last week as part of the company’s inaugural set of classes for the Shakespeare Theatre Academy. “En Garde!: Sword Play 101,” an eight-week class on stage fighting, was one of the offerings, engaging a group of ten students that included high schoolers, their parents, and a public school drama teacher. The Theatre – based out of Madison, New Jersey – had long wanted to hold an Academy; it finally became a reality once the company was able to build a new facility to house administrative offices, costume and scene shops, and a rehearsal studio.
“We finally have the space to do the classes, so we can expand our arts education universe,” said artistic director Bonnie Monte. The company had already been offering a summer professional training program for teens and the Junior and Senior Shakespeare Corps for students ages 11 to 17. The Academy offered four eight-week sessions this week and hopes to add more sessions in the fall.
More Shakespeare To Go
The popular “Shakespeare To Go” program of the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival will now be offered in both fall and spring, thanks to increased demand and new corporate sponsorships. The program – which offers performances of edited adaptations of Shakespeare plays for grades 3-12 – tours North Carolina schools, libraries, and community centers each spring, and the last two tour seasons have sold out. The program reaches between 20,000 and 30,000 students per year. The fall 2014 tour will present versions of The Comedy of Errors and Hamlet.
Much of the new business will come from high schools. “The new state common core education standards that require teaching Shakespeare in every high school grade went into effect this school year,” said festival president Wil Elder.
The North Carolina Shakespeare Festival is now entering its 36th season.
Holding the mirror up to nature, cont.
PBS Newshour recently presented “To Bully or Not To Bully: Using Shakespeare in Schools to Address Violence,” a report on a special educational program of the Colorado Shakespeare Festival that addresses the issue of bullying. The episode follows festival performer/teachers as they work with students at Thornton High School, just north of Denver.
The educational program was created two years ago in conjunction with the University of Colorado’s Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence; by the end of this school year, nearly 150 schools will have participated, for a total of 30,000 students from all grade levels.
Good players make good neighbors
An article in the Mail Tribune in southern Oregon recently focused on the close relationship between the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the local schools. One example featured was a group of students at Orchard Hill Elementary putting on a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, under the guidance of two OSF actors/teachers. One story highlight: Michelle Zundel, now principal at Ashland High School, recalls how she had to break the news to students that only fourth and fifth graders could attend a school-sponsored OSF performance; a third-grader wrote a letter to her asking, “How can you keep Shakespeare from me?”
We look forward to your feedback and comments about any of the stories you’ve read here today. Let us know what you think and start the conversation!