Folger Education just concluded the 31st annual Secondary School Festival with 56 schools participating in a seven day event featuring performances by 1,500 students from the Virginia, Maryland, DC area. Ten of the schools were part of Shakespeare for a New Generation, an NEA/Arts Midwest grant funded program that placed teaching artists in 1o classrooms. These teaching artists worked with students to prepare them for a student matinee of The Comedy of Errors at the Folger Theatre, as well as helped them to prepare for their festival performances. In addition, teachers had the opportunity to see first-hand, and to participate in, the performance-based activities that help to bring Shakespeare to life for students in the classroom. We know that teachers will be applying what they saw and experienced in their classes as a result of this program.
Festivals don’t all have to be as big as the one we hold at the Folger. They can be as small as having students in one class perform for one another, or classes that are part of your daily teaching schedule treading the boards. Perhaps even students in your neighboring teacher’s classroom might join your students in performing edited versions of Shakespeare’s plays, scenes from the play you’re studying, or scenes chosen to represent a theme or motif. The festival is a celebration of Shakespeare’s language and work, not a competition.
Have you participated in a festival of Shakespeare’s plays with your students? What was it like for you? For your students?