Shakespeare & Co mixes Young Actors, the Bard and Broad Swords in Fall Festival

(Above: Lee High School’s “Romeo and Juliet”. Photo by Jessie Earl.)

It’s an amazing story, and a tale worth telling.

Q: What do you get when you give several hundred teenagers passionate text, boundless creative freedom, and dozens of gleaming broadswords?

A: Shakespeare & Company’s 23rd annual Fall Festival of Shakespeare. It is a nationally celebrated program that places Shakespeare & Company Education Artists in 10 schools, where they lead students on a nine-week exploration of how Shakespeare’s plays relate to their own lives and hold a mirror up to society. Built on the transformative power of Shakespeare’s words, the Fall Festival seeks to engage students in vibrant, playful, and poignant theatrical experiences.

The Reasoning behind the Festival

Expressing Emotions. Photos by Enrico Spada.

Led by Director of Education Kevin Coleman, Associate Director of Education Jenna Ware, and School Programs Manager Alexandra Lincoln, the Fall Festival is a celebration rather than a competition. Students are encouraged to delve into Shakespeare’s works, unpacking the language and savoring the humor, intensity and transcendent beauty of plays written over 400 years ago. Daily rehearsals focus on students’ personal responses to the text, creating the possibility for a personal connection to language that students previously may have written off as inaccessible. Students also learn stage combat, technical theatre, stage management, publicity techniques, and dance during their Festival experience.

“In its 23rd year the Fall Festival of Shakespeare continues to be a celebration of what is possible; of what team effort, hard work and a willingness to play, coupled with Shakespeare’s words can create.” enlightens Jenna Ware, Associate Director of Education.

“For each of the hundreds of students involved – whether they be actors, technicians, costumers or producers – the Fall Festival is a celebration of inclusion, cooperation, non-competition, courage and personal investment. This is not a competition between students, teachers or directors. It’s not a competition between the 10 schools. There are no external rewards or trophies. The reward in this model is the pride and pleasure students find in themselves and each other, the personal meaning and value they discover in Shakespeare’s language and stories, and the self-esteem they earn in challenging themselves in this daunting and demanding task.

After 23 years, the Fall Festival offers undeniable proof that cooperation and inclusion, the supporting of others and the celebration of the common good creates a model more humane and healing, more effective and productive than the more familiar model of competition; of winning and loosing. The participants from these 10 different schools have shown us the model that needs to shape our world’s future.”-Kevin G. Coleman, Director of Education.

How it is paid for

Reaching for the stars

For the upcoming Fall Festival, Shakespeare & Company’s Education Program has received major funding from the National Endowment for the Arts as well as the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation, which have generously supported this program for a number of years. Additionally, the Fall Festival is receiving substantial local support, including a $2,500 grant from Berkshire Bank, and a $5,000 grant from SABIC Innovative Plastics in support of Taconic High School’s participation in the Fall Festival for the second year running.

Additional local support is provided by the parents and teachers of Lenox Memorial HS who contributed nearly $3,000 in honor of James Hurley, who retired last June after more than 35 years of service at the school. The Fall Festival also receives generous individual support, in particular from Jeff Konowitch & Wendy Laurin, and from Deborah Mars & Bill Ryan. Continuing a tradition this year, we have a challenge grant from an anonymous family that is donating $2,500 and if we can raise a matching $2,500, they will give us an additional $2,500 for a total of $7,500. In past years every challenge grant has been met during the Fall Festival weekend in November. We hope to be able to reach this goal once again with help from the students, their families and the general public that attend the Fall Festival.

Many students, many schools

"Projecting" his lines

Once again, the Fall Festival will bring together over 500 students from 10 different schools in Massachusetts and eastern New York. All of the participating schools have been coming together to celebrate Shakespeare’s words for 10 years or more! According to one student who participated in last year’s Fall Festival: “One moment stood out for me so strongly as I think back. It was at the first common class, at the very end. All the schools stood on either side of the room and ran at full speed with sword in hand into battle. I realized the power, passion and energy put into everything Shakespeare. It was such a powerful moment that I’ll never forget.” -Shianne Dierkes, Taconic Hills High School.

The Fall Festival culminates with the students performing a Shakespeare play at their own school multiple times and then again as part of a four-day marathon of plays at Shakespeare & Company’s Founders’ Theatre. Shakespeare & Company’s set, props and costume departments collaborate with the Education Artists and students to create a unique design for each play. This year’s marathon of student performances at Founders’ Theatre runs November 17 through 20, which is the weekend before Thanksgiving. Participating high schools include Chatham High School, Monument Mountain Regional High School, Lenox Memorial High School, Taconic High School, Lee High School, Springfield Central High School, Mt. Greylock Regional High School, Taconic Hills High School, Mt. Everett Regional High School, and North Andover High School. The in-school shows are listed below.

Popular with Students, Teachers and Parents

The Fall Festival of Shakespeare has become a local institution, and is one of the focal points of Shakespeare & Company’s celebrated Education Program. Created in 1978, the Education Program established Shakespeare & Company as a year-round member of the community. The Fall Festival is Shakespeare & Company’s longest-running education program and has had an especially powerful community impact, reaching thousands of students and their families since its founding in 1988.

Shakespeare & Company is home to one of the most extensive theatre-in-education programs anywhere. Since 1978, Shakespeare & Company’s Education Program has reached over one million students through innovative performances, workshops, and residencies. It was the subject of an in-depth, two-year study by Harvard University’s Project Zero, which recommended national replication. In 2006, the Education Program received the prestigious Coming Up Taller Award presented by First Lady Laura Bush at the White House, and in 2005 it received the Commonwealth Award, the highest award for excellence in the arts, sciences and humanities given by the State of Massachusetts. The Education Program has been identified by the Arts Education Partnership and the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities as a “Champion of Change,” and is recognized as an innovative leader in the field of arts education.

Learning should be fun, too.

Schedule of School Performances

Chatham High School’s Macbeth
Friday, November 11 and Saturday, Nov 12 @ 7pm

Lee High School’s Romeo & Juliet
Thursday, Nov 10 Saturday, Nov 12 @ 7pm

Lenox Memorial High School’s Much Ado About Nothing
Wednesday, Nov 9 and Thursday, Nov 10 @ 7pm

Monument Mountain Regional High School’s Twelfth Night
Thursday, Nov 10 Saturday, Nov 12 @ 7:30 pm
Mt. Everett Regional High School’s Hamlet
Friday, November 11at 7:30 and Saturday, November 12 at 2 and 7:30pm

Mt. Greylock Regional High School’s Richard III
Wednesday, Nov 9 and Thursday, Nov 10 @ 7pm

North Andover High School’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Saturday, November 12 and Sunday, November 13

Springfield Central High School’s Macbeth
Wednesday, Nov 9 and Thursday Nov 10 @ 9 am and 7:30pm

Taconic High School’s Much Ado About Nothing
Thursday, Nov 10 Saturday, Nov 12 @ 7pm

Taconic Hills High School’s Hamlet
Thursday, Nov 10 Saturday, Nov 12 @ 7pm

Schedule of Public Performances at the Founder’s Theatre in Lenox

Thursday, November 17
6:30 – Mount Everett Regional High School – Hamlet
8:30 – Chatham High School – Macbeth

Friday, November 18
6:30 – Lenox Memorial Middle and High School – Much Ado About Nothing
8:30 – Mount Greylock Regional High School – Richard III

Saturday, November 19
1:30 – Lee High School – Romeo and Juliet
3:30 – Taconic High School – Much Ado About Nothing
6:15 – Monument Mountain Regional High School – Twelfth Night
8:30 – Springfield Central High School – Macbeth

Sunday, November 20
1:30 – Taconic Hills High School – Hamlet
3:30 – North Andover High School – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
5:00 – The Reverence (Traditional Elizabethan dance)

Ticket Information

Ticket prices: $6 students / $12 adults
Pass to all Performances: $35 students / $60 adults

Founders’ Theatre is located at the Company’s 70 Kemble Street campus in Lenox, and is wheelchair accessible. Tickets are $12.00 for adults and $6.00 for students per performance. A Festival Pass, which includes all ten plays, may also be purchased for $60.00 for adults and $30.00 for students. For tickets and Fall Festival information, please call the Box Office at (413) 637-3353 or visit the website at www.shakespeare.org.

Organizations Supporting The Fall Festival of Shakespeare

The National Endowment for the Arts supports American theater by funding the work of theater companies of all sizes, genres and aesthetics, and is committed to the goal of enabling all Americans to enrich their lives through the arts. The Learning In the Arts program is designed to “advance arts education for children and youth in school-based or community-based settings … supporting in-depth, curriculum-based arts education experiences that occur over an extended period.” These experiences allow children to celebrate their cultural inheritance, and to develop their social and academic skills through the arts. For more information on the National Endowment for the Arts, go to http://www.NEA.gov.

The Sohn Foundation aids a broad spectrum of causes that support the environment, alternative health care and the arts. The Foundation is particularly interested in funding educational projects which bring an awareness of the environment, alternative health care and the arts to those who are underserved, particularly to young people. For more information, please visit http://www.sohnfoundation.org/.

Berkshire Bank, established in 1846, is one of Massachusetts’ oldest and largest independent banks as well as the largest banking institution based in Western Massachusetts. Berkshire Bank, its Foundation, and employees are committed to making a difference every day in every part of their network through grants to nonprofits, scholarships, corporate sponsorships and employee volunteerism.

SABIC Innovative Plastics is a world leader in providing engineering thermoplastic material solutions. Their donation towards the Fall Festival program Taconic High School is representative of their commitment to innovative thinking and youth empowerment. For more information, please visit http://www.sabic-ip.com/.
The Fund in Honor of James Hurley was established at the end of the last school year. It honors James Hurley, one of Fall Festival’s long time champions and head of the Humanities Department at Lenox High School. At the time of his retirement, the community banded together and raised several thousand dollars in his honor.

Additionally, Shakespeare & Company education programs receive major support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and its local cultural councils and many other local corporations, private foundations, and individuals.

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