MADISON, NJ — The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s esteemed educational touring program Shakespeare LIVE! has reached the extraordinary milestone of performing for half a million students, the Theatre has announced.
Now in its 16th season, the flagship of the Theatre’s many outreach programs is the largest classical touring company for young people in the mid-Atlantic region. Since 1997, Shakespeare LIVE! has been presenting fully-staged productions of Shakespeare’s plays and other classic works in schools and other community venues throughout the tri-state region and states along the East coast.
Performances are appropriate for students in grades 3-12, and are abridged to run in 60-90 minutes without compromising the integrity of the original language. Each innovative production combines Shakespeare’s text with dynamic, imaginative visuals that illuminate the contemporary relevance of the works for young audiences. Performances are augmented by a comprehensive study guide, a post-performance discussion with the actors, and interactive workshops. Shakespeare LIVE! is the only New Jersey company that has been selected to participate in the National Endowment for the Arts’ prestigious nationwide initiative, Shakespeare in American Communities, and has been a part of that ground-breaking initiative for eight seasons.
“One of the first educational outreach programs Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte established when she took over The Shakespeare Theatre in 1990 was an after-school artist residency program for middle school students, said Brian B. Crowe, director of education for the Theatre. “While working one-on-one with students and teachers in these classrooms, we discovered that many New Jersey students were graduating from high school without ever seeing a live professional theatre performance, to say nothing of a Shakespeare play. Shakespeare LIVE! was established to address this void. We know that to excite kids about Shakespeare and his language, one merely needs to present genuine Shakespeare performed well.”
“The mission of Shakespeare LIVE! is to provide as many young people as possible with the opportunity to experience and learn from live theatre, and to bring performances directly to students in their schools,” said Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte. “As custodians of Shakespeare’s work and purveyors of critical knowledge and insight, we feel a tremendous responsibility to bring these classics to the next generation. We know that learning through the arts results in greater academic achievement and higher test scores, and theatre, in particular, provides an important context and framework for the study of many subjects including language arts, literature, social studies and history. We are immensely proud that having now reached half a million students with these productions, this program has had a tremendous impact on the education landscape in New Jersey.”
In its 16 season history, Shakespeare LIVE! has presented more than 1,800 performances at over 580 elementary, middle and high schools. The company has employed more than 175 actors and stage managers who have performed in every county in New Jersey, and in states up and down the East coast including Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia.
In addition to performances, Shakespeare LIVE! offers adjunct educational activities including a post-show talk-back with the cast offered with each performance, and optional classroom workshops, in which students have the opportunity to read and perform a portion of the play under the tutelage of the actors and Theatre education staff. The post-show discussions provide the opportunity to answer students’ questions, and also to guide the discussion in order to provide students with key facts and information about theatre and Shakespeare. For example, the cast discusses the difference between live theatre, film and television; the fact that Shakespeare’s plays are written in an earlier form of the modern English used today; and that Shakespeare invented over 1,700 words in common English usage.
Optional classroom workshops are also available and can be booked on their own or in conjunction with a Shakespeare LIVE! performance. In each workshop session, actors from the company work with up to 30 students to “break open” a Shakespeare monologue using text analysis and basic performance skills. This highly interactive workshop gives students the chance to perform Shakespeare’s words on their feet while reinforcing curricular topics including context clues, punctuation, vocabulary and reading fluency.
Shakespeare LIVE! performances are augmented by a comprehensive study guide that meets the New Jersey Department of Education’s Core Curriculum Content Standards for Visual and Performing Arts. The guide is sent to participating teachers in advance, giving them the tools with which to construct interdisciplinary lesson plans for their students, creating a well-rounded and multifaceted learning experience.
Shakespeare LIVE! is part of Shakespeare in American Communities: Shakespeare for a New Generation, a national program of the National Endowment for the Arts in cooperation with Arts Midwest. The National Endowment for the Arts in cooperation with Arts Midwest presents Shakespeare for a New Generation. The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey is one of 40 professional theater companies selected to participate in Shakespeare for a New Generation, bringing excellent productions of Shakespeare to thousands of middle- and high-school students in communities across the United States. For more information on Shakespeare for a New Generation, please visit http://www.ShakespeareInAmericanCommunities.org/.
Funding for Shakespeare LIVE! is provided, in part, by The Turrell Fund, the MetLife Foundation, Investors Bank, Provident Bank Foundation, The Ambrose and Ida Fredrickson Foundation, and The John and Margaret Post Foundation.
2012 marks The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s 50th Anniversary. The company’s 50th Anniversary season, which begins in late May and continues through December, includes productions of Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part One; The Liar by David Ives, adapted from the comedy by Pierre Corneille; Shakespeare’s Measure For Measure; Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, adapted by Neil Bartlett; Man of La Mancha by Dale Wasserman, with lyrics by Joe Darion and music by Mitch Leigh; and Trelawny of the Wells by Arthur Wing Pinero.
For its annual Outdoor Stage production at the Greek amphitheater at the College of St. Elizabeth in Morris Township, The Shakespeare Theatre will present Shakespeare’s raucous slapstick The Comedy of Errors.
The acclaimed Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey is an independent, professional theatre company located on the Drew University campus. One of the leading Shakespeare theatres in the nation, serving 100,000 adults and children annually, it is New Jersey’s largest professional theatre company dedicated solely to Shakespeare’s canon and other world classics. Through its distinguished productions and education programs, the company strives to illuminate the universal and lasting relevance of the classics for contemporary audiences.