NEA Arts Magazine

Shakespeare for a New Generation

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Mrs. Laura Bush in front of the Shakespeare Comes to LA poster

Mrs. Laura Bush at the headquarters of Shakespeare Festival LA. Photo: © Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging

When Mrs. Laura Bush dropped by the headquarters of Shakespeare Festival LA's Will Power to Youth program, and watched its young cast members perform the opening scenes of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, she said, "This was so great. But it wasn't enough. I'd like to see more."

Mrs. Bush is about to get her wish, along with thousands of American students. On May 12th, Arts Endowment Chairman Dana Gioia announced the participating theater companies for the third year of Shakespeare in American Communities and the second year of Shakespeare for a New Generation. This new phase will include theater companies that present full productions, along with those that present Shakespeare's work through model education programs. Arts Midwest, a regional arts organization based in Minneapolis, is managing the program.

Twenty students in two rows

Cast members of Shakespeare Festival LA's Will Power to Youth program. Photo: © Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging

So far, 46 theater companies have participated in the program. (See the May 12th press release in the News Room of our Web site.) Companies will provide matching funds to support activities targeting students from at least 10 schools in their communities, states, or regions during the 2005-06 school year.

Mrs. Bush commended the program's expansion: "Shakespeare for a New Generation brings the world of this great playwright to thousands of schoolchildren throughout the country."

Since its 2003 inauguration, Shakespeare in American Communities has reached more than 550 communities with more than 1200 performances in areas as diverse as Monmouth, Maine and Douglas, Arkansas.

"This program helps actors, students, teachers, and theater companies while improving the quality of education across the country. It is a model of both artistic excellence and grassroots accessibility," said NEA Chairman Dana Gioia.

To enhance the educational impact of the program, the Arts Endowment will continue to provide educational materials, free of charge, to thousands of classrooms. Materials include a teacher's guide with lesson plans, two educational videos, and a CD featuring interviews and recitations by leading actors, and can be ordered free of charge by teachers at http://www.vpw.com/partner/shakespeare.