Grant will help students and teachers in underserved communities experience Shakespeare
July 7, 2014
Ashland, Ore.—The Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) is one of 40 nonprofit theatre companies chosen to participate in the 2014-15 Shakespeare in American Communities program. OSF will receive a $25,000 grant award from Arts Midwest, on behalf of the National Endowment for the Arts, in support of efforts to expose underserved students and teachers to the works of William Shakespeare.
Shakespeare in American Communities has contributed to OSF’s education efforts for 10 years. OSF will use this latest award to help students and teachers in underserved communities in Oregon and northern California access 312 performances of six Shakespeare plays in 2014 and 2015—The Tempest, The Comedy of Errors, Richard III, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Much Ado about Nothing and Pericles—as well as related classroom curricula and actor workshops, post-show discussions, tours, Prologues and teacher training classes.
“This SAC grant allows us to keep fees low and to offer scholarships and complimentary or discounted tickets to students and teachers who could not otherwise participate in these enriching experiences,” said OSF Director of Education Joan Langley. “OSF is uniquely qualified to deliver theatre education to underserved students. OSF’s Education Department of nine theater educators delivers more than 1,900 events annually, supported by more than 100 other company members. Since 1971, OSF’s flagship touring School Visit Program has reached more than 2 million students.”
Participants from 43 high schools and three middle/elementary schools will benefit from the grant through the following core initiatives: the Ashland Schools Project, which serves the local high school in OSF’s hometown of Ashland; the Bowmer Project for Student Playgoers, serving southern Oregon and northern California schools within a day trip of OSF; and School Visit Partnerships, serving schools as far as 400 miles away. The SAC grant also supports professional development and teacher training programs, including Shakespeare in the Classroom and Inside Shakespeare, which both train teachers in a theatre-based approach to teaching Shakespeare. The OSF Teachers First! brochure provides information about the plays in each season and education opportunities available at OSF. Teachers are also supplied with study guides, pre-show Prologues and post-show discussions which all help to maximize their students’ visit.
Many participating schools are located in remote, isolated areas or serve diverse communities. For instance, Scott Valley Junior High School in Etna, California (pop. 737), a Bowmer Project school, is more than 30 miles from a major highway, and School Visit Partner Grant Union High School in John Day, Oregon, serves an area of 4,529 square miles in the center of the state. In another example, 48% of the student body at Bowmer Project school White Mountain Middle School in White City, Oregon are Latino/a. This grant helps OSF accomplish its goal of reaching out to geographically and ethnically diverse student populations.
Shakespeare in American Communities introduces middle and high school students to the power of live theater and the masterpieces of William Shakespeare. To enhance the educational impact of Shakespeare in American Communities, Arts Midwest and the NEA have developed a comprehensive SAC website.
Teachers learn a theatre-based approach to teaching Shakespeare through OSF's Shakespeare in the Classroom teacher training program. Photo by Jenny Graham.