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Shakespeare & Co Creates Magic With Fall Festival

Short Description of Shakespeare & Co Creates Magic With Fall Festival

Shakespeare & Co

70 Kemble

Lenox, MA


We at didyouweekend proclaimed last year, “There is an educational revolution going on at Shakespeare & Co.. Dost Thou Hear It?”


We were talking, of course, about the Fall Festival initiative by Shakespeare & Co., one of the most compelling and innovating examples of educating kids we have ever seen. The program links hundreds of kids from different schools and brings them together in a nine week training program that culminates in a three- day symposium of great plays, performed by an awesome group of teenagers. Step aside Common Core: This is the program EVERY school needs to implement.


How do we translate this?


Shakespeare & Co is teaching Shakespeare to kids, and the kids can't get enough of it. What if we could do this with Math, Science, History and so on? The world needs to take notice of this program.


The kids meet after school to put together a Shakespeare play of their choice. Starting in the early Fall, you will see dozens of buses from Springfield to Chatham dropping kids off at Shakes—and you will see the kids racing to get into the Tina Packer theater. They stand at the door with anticipation as if their favorite rock star has arrived. The star, the element of such electricity, is not rock, pop, or b-bop—it is Shakespeare. It is about working with each other, and it is about learning Shakespeare in a way they have never learned Shakespeare before. The impact is so big, the kids come back each year, again and again, to dissect Shakespeare's words, master Old English, and learn how to create a drama with kids from other schools.


The pep rallies start in the halls at the theater, the excitement builds, and the energy in the room with hundreds of kids rallying is one of the most dynamic and energetic events you will ever experience.



The students then separate into groups and begin producing and putting together their own plays, working with mentors at Shakes & Co. They meet friends from other schools and prepare their own play which they perform in front of each other (schedule below). They act, produce and direct, for the ultimate presentation, which is a three day play festival on a real live professional theater, in front of a real live audience.


A mentor from Shakes also visits the schools, and helps the schools put their school plays on.


The true path being taught here is language, compassion, acting, camaraderie (the kids are not allowed to compete with each other), history, social studies and most importantly, humanity.



“As we are surrounded with advertisement, promotions and entertainments that scream superlatives for our attention, the Fall Festival stands alone in its depth of content, its demand for personal courage and collaborative efforts,” says Education Director Kevin G. Coleman. “Each year the Festival brings Shakespeare’s plays alive for hundreds of students who, in the process, both discover and reveal what it means to be human. This is the essence of theatre, and the heart of education. This is the reason and the pleasure of the Fall Festival of Shakespeare. ”


In order to delve a bit more into what is really happening here, we pulled four kids aside to learn what it is about this program that is so compelling. We spoke to Jaina Wollowitz, a Junior at Chatham; Jacob Paul, a Senior at Mt. Greylock; Mitchell McCauley, a Senior at Taconic, and Maize Earner, a Junior at Taconic Hills. Each participant has been coming to the Fall Festival for several years.


Q. “Shakespeare turned 450 years old this year. Why is he still so popular today? What is it about him, his writing, that makes him so seemingly timeless?”


Jaina: “It's the way he writes. He writes in a way that is so unique, in a special, poetic kind of way. Shakespeare wrote so many different works, we can still learn something new today with every play. Shakespeare wrote about the human condition—who we are. He captured the time period, and there's part of us as humans that never change.”


Maise: “Shakespeare's plays are timeless. He shows us special and unique ways to relate to characters. Take 'Midsummer Night's Dream', for example. He captures the essence of falling in love for the first time. He captures the essence of teenage love, of the teenage crisis of not being loved back, of the realization that the one you love does not love you back. That first teenage love hurts.”


Jaina: “The emotion in the plays are the same emotions we feel today: anger, sadness, unity. His writing has a universal impact on the way we feel.”


Q. “Now—this is a Fall program. I remember growing up as a kid, when I passed another school, I always wondered who went there. You actually meet other people from other schools and get to engage in the Fall Festival with them. How cool is that! Have you made friendships? Do you keep in touch throughout the year?”


Collective: “It's a LOT of fun meeting friends from other schools. A LOT of fun. And EVERYONE makes an effort to stay in touch throughout the school year.”


Q. “Do we prefer Old English? I confess, I hated Shakespeare in school because of it. The teacher gave us no background, no foundation. Gave us the book in tenth grade with words I didn't understand and stuck it in our face and said 'enjoy.'”


Jacob: “Love Old English. It is rich and very specific. It adds meaning modern English does not. Old English is, after all, the way we used to learn.”


Q. “So we all prefer Old English?”


Collective: “Absolutely.”


Mitchell: “It helps me better dissect the text and gives me a better understanding”.


Q. Now, let's look at the Shakespeare & Co program for a minute. I come here and I see pep rallies. I see kids racing to get off the school bus—after school, I might add—to come and work on their Shakespeare piece. I feel an electricity in the air here I am not even going to try and describe—you have to feel it to believe it. After school, we're tired, homework, some of you travel quite a bit to be here. All over Shakespeare.


“What does Shakespeare & Co do to get this excitement going? What are they doing differently than what your school does? Like I said, I never felt excitement for Shakespeare in school because they dropped the book on my lap and I had no clue what I was doing.”


Collective: “They still drop it in your lap in school and say 'read'. What Shakespeare & Co does is pick apart the lines, they help us make a better connection with the text.”


Jaina: “The director of each of our plays asks us different questions throughout the script. The director doesn't just let us read it. He or she dissect it. They ask, 'How does that sentence make you feel?' For example, Juliet just died, and we examine the emotion it has on us.”


Maise: “In school we just read it. We don't get into the depth with the characters the way we do at Shakespeare & Co.. The folks at Shakespeare & Co make us say sentences and rehearse in different ways. Here, we explore the mood, the meaning of everything to really comprehend what is going on.”


Q. “I know you have to run. Favorite quotes?”


Mitchell: “King Lear. Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.”


Maise: “If music be the food of love, play on.”


The plays run November 20-23, and include:


Fall Festival of Shakespeare Performance Schedule
Tina Packer Playhouse, November 20-23, 2014

Thursday 6:15 - Welcoming
Thursday 6:30 - Chatham High School -Hamlet
Thursday 8:30 - Lee High School -Richard III
Friday 6:30 - Lenox Memorial High School -Hamlet
Friday 8:30 - Mt. Greylock Regional High School - The Winter’s Tale
Saturday 1:30 - Monument Mountain Regional High School - The Winter’s Tale
Saturday 3:30 - Taconic High School – Twelfth Night
Saturday 6:15 - Mt. Everett Regional High School - Henry V
Saturday 8:30 - Springfield Central High School - A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Sunday 1:30 - Taconic Hills High School - A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Sunday 3:30 - North Andover High School - Romeo and Juliet
Sunday 5:00 - Closing celebration

In School Performance Schedule
Mt. Greylock Regional High School - Friday, Nov. 14th at 7pm and Saturday, Nov. 15th at 7pm
Taconic High School - Thursday, Nov. 13th at 7pm and Friday, Nov. 14th at 7pm
Lenox Memorial High School - Thursday, Nov. 13th at 7pm and Friday, Nov. 14th at 7pm
Lee High School - Friday, Nov. 14th at 7pm and Saturday, Nov. 15th at 7pm
Monument Mountain Regional High School - Thursday, Nov. 13th at 7pm and Friday, Nov. 14th at 7pm
Mt. Everett Regional High School - Friday, Nov. 14th at 7pm and Saturday, Nov. 15th at 1pm
Springfield Central High School - Thursday, Nov. 13th at 7pm, Friday, Nov. 14th at 7pm and Saturday, Nov. 15th at 2pm
Chatham High School - Friday, Nov. 14th at 7pm and Saturday, Nov. 15th at 7pm
Taconic Hills High School - Friday, Nov. 14th at 7pm and Saturday, Nov. 15th at 2pm & 7pm
North Andover High School - Friday, Nov. 14th at 7:30pm and Saturday, Nov. 15th at 2pm & 7:30pm


--Richard DiMaggio, didyouweekend.com



Contact Information

Address: 70 Kemble St, Lenox, MA 01240, USA

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