The Young Shakespeareans
"If I can do Shakespeare, I can do anything!"
why we do it
The Program meets five goals:
To create an early and formative learning community that employs theatre arts to inspire students' curiosity, trigger their passions, and maximize their academic, social, and aesthetic potential;
To increase students' sense of compassion, self-awareness, and emotional literacy through their analysis and understanding of dramatic literature and universal themes;
To create a “contagion of community” that engages the cooperative participation of students, parents, faculty, and administrators;
To invite and encourage private business and institutional investment in the schools and immediate surrounding community;
To capture the imagination and collaboration of the broader Los Angeles community to promote high expectations and academic standards, exposure and opportunity for all student groups, regardless of ethnicity, native language, or income level.
what we do
The Young Shakespeareans program empowers underserved neighborhoods in South Los Angeles through partnerships with its public elementary schools. We throw down the gauntlet and set the bar high, inspiring each school’s 4th and 5th graders to reach beyond their own perceived limits in an experience that is demanding and magical.
In meeting the challenge of understanding a Shakespearean work, the students explore their literacy skills and expand their self-confidence. Through exercises in self-awareness and presentation, they learn to reliably access and express their abilities. By mounting a theatrical production, they experience the demands of mutual respect and teamwork. The fusion of these elements creates an opportunity for “academics in action” that is powerful, exciting, and formative.
The Young Shakespeareans program establishes a foundational trifecta of self-esteem, cooperation, and possibility that endures long after the students have taken their final bows. Siblings and younger students strive to become eligible to participate when they come of age. And because our workshops, rehearsals, and performances take place in the local school auditorium, the principals, teachers, administrators, parents, and neighbors in our audiences consistently thank us for helping to foster the sense of the school as a vibrant, relevant home for its students, families, and the surrounding community.
how we do it
The Program takes place during the academic year. A Shakespearean play is chosen to read and discuss in the classroom from September through December. The school selects which students shall take part.
Between January and May over the course of 12 weeks after school, our Theatrical Teaching Artists lead the students in a carefully developed and challenging curriculum of academic and theatrical activities. The curriculum is specifically designed to foster each student's awareness of their own innate abilities, to complement those abilities with academic and life skills, and to help them explore what they can achieve through extended discipline, commitment, and teamwork.
These efforts culminate in multiple performances by the students of an abridged but full-scale production of impressive quality for the full school, its families, extended community, and everyone who would like see it. There is no cost to attend and everyone is welcome.
when we began
The Young Shakespeareans Program began in South Los Angeles in 2008 at the behest of LAUSD administrators Emma Rodriguez and Robert Baker. The Program was initiated at Nevin Avenue Elementary School under Principal Denise Pratt, and though Dr. Pratt has moved on to serve as an LAUSD District Director, she remains an avid supporter and proponent, encouraging the Principals in her charge to bring the Program to their schools.
The Young Shakespeareans Program remains a vital part of Nevin Avenue Elementary School, has been joined by West Vernon Elementary School, and at the demand of alumni from both schools, is beginning its tenure at John Adams Middle School.