From: Ruth Charles
Professor, Winona State University
Let me correct your thinking — Shakespeare is not just for adults! Children and teens of all ages can come to love Shakespeare and can be pushed with new knowledge to become even better students. Learning to understand “Shakespeare” English encourages students. The thought is: if I can understand this, then maybe I can figure out algebra!
My family has been involved with the Great River Shakespeare Festival from the first season when my older daughter was in third grade. We took her to see A Midsummer’s Night Dream and she was entranced! Imagine — fairies that do not look like Tinkerbell! Her imagination was inspired, her learning expanded and she wanted more.
Currently I work on the education committee with the Friends of Will volunteers and help coordinate a number of events. We help facilitate opportunities like Will Reads (June 1, 8, & 15) a community discussion about the GRSF plays. We also recruit 8-12 graders for Shakespeare for Young Actors. Delivering fliers to local schools, it is fascinating to hear the excitement in educators that Shakespeare is available to the younger audience. Chill with Will provides discounted tickets to students, then invites the younger audience to come early, do a backstage tour, meet the director, then after the show they can ask the actors questions. Eating ice cream before the show with Paul Barnes can be a draw!
This past winter Winona Senior High School and the Winona Alternative Learning Center were able to host GRSF actors who taught and involved the students with the texts. After two weeks’ time, these students performed in front of an audience their Shakespeare scenes and monologues.
It was exciting to see their enthusiasm for something that they might not have enjoyed previously! Teens who would have probably trudged their way through Romeo and Juliet or Julius Caesar were now deep in thought about what it meant to speak these words. Not just to recite them, but to know the context, to know the history, and to have found out that Shakespeare is actually quite funny!
The Winona community might not know it yet, but our real bonus from the Great River Shakespeare Festival is the impact that it has on the next generation. Imagine what will happen to youth who grow up going to professional Shakespeare shows, interacting with the staff, being pushed to the limit by professionals who have seen the “big” world.
This is why I am participating in the Setting the Stage campaign for the Great River Shakespeare Festival. Personally I love the arts, but in the long term I want my children, my children’s friends, my neighbor’s children, my community to benefit from how learning and knowing about Shakespeare can open new doors. Education benefits the community and the Great River Shakespeare Festival makes it so much fun!
Join the excitement and support the Setting the Stage campaign (www.grsf.org/settting-the-stage). The youth of Winona will thank you over and over in years to come.