Journey to Shakespeare

By Taylor Bernard

1940s family gathers around the radio to listen Much Ado About Nothing, creating the frame for our conceptualized piece.

This summer, high school students from all five boroughs and around the country came together to see if they could find Shakespeare. A team of professionals and graduate students under the direction of Professor David Montgomery led this diverse group of young people on their journey.

The team helped the Youth Ensemble find ways to truly connect with Shakespeare’s words and characters. Not only did the ensemble manage to perform in a full production of Much Ado About Nothing, but they also had opportunities to explore the entire production process. The students worked to build and paint the set, created their own masks, and learned a great deal about dramaturgy as they worked to create a post-WWII atmosphere for the production.

Youth ensemble members work with a professional costumer to review primary sources and sketches for costume designs.

One of the highlights of the course included a special screening of the film “Shakespeare High,” an award-winning documentary about a group of student-performers involved in the Drama Teachers Association of Southern California’s high school drama program that focuses its work on Shakespeare’s plays. The Looking for Shakespeare team also had a talk back with the film’s producer and actress Mare Winningham, who is one of the many famous alumni/ae of the DTASC program featured in the film.

I think if you asked anyone involved with the project whether or not we found him, I am positive the answer would be a resounding YES!

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For more than a decade, high school students have come to NYU Steinhardt to work with a director and graduate students from NYU to shape an original production of Shakespeare. This program is unique in that the ensemble members will work with director and a dramaturg to discover how a Shakespearean play resonates for them, within their own personal experiences. Using these connections as a source and inspiration, rehearse and perform, with the other ensemble members, their own vision of the play. The production is supported by designers and stage managers and is documented by a video artist.

For additional information about the program, visit: http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/music/edtheatre/programs/summer/shakespeare