Our Kids, and Northern Stage: Growing Shakespeare

Only two years ago, Northern Stage launched a program that brought professional theater artists into the Upper Valley's Dothan Brook and Hartland Elementary schools. Their mission? To teach 73 students the power of acting and performing the words of William Shakespeare. Known as Shakespeare in the Schools, the program now has a new name--BridgeUP: Theater in the Schools--and will expand to include 8 area schools, 300 students, and 16 theater professionals.

Local theaters like Northern Stage often work with schools to get students into the theater to watch its staged productions for little or no cost. But this is different. As before, this expanded program will bring theater into the schools and communities, and Northern Stage has chosen to focus on school districts where the arts are needed most.

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In an earlier post about this program, I heard from Lanni Luce West, then a teacher of 4th graders who had participated in the project for the past two years. As part of West's commentary on the program's importance, she said that her students don't just "do Shakespeare. They flourish . . . Shakespeare in the Schools gives my students confidence, an opportunity to shine in a different light. It gives them something to feel proud of."  And of the final performance given for school mates and families, West wrote: "A student who is usually crippled with anxiety spoke with confidence on stage. A child who can't read memorized and recited long monologues of Shakespearean language . . . Students took the stage by storm. That is why Shakespeare in the Schools matters."

The program expansion has been made possible by the Pussycat Foundation, Clint and Bonnie Swift, and the Education Fund donors. Amanda Rafuse, Northern Stage's Associate Director will direct the BridgeUP Program; Susan Haefner, long known as an actor in many Stage productions, will serve as the program's Assistant Director. Participating schools include Bluff Elementary School (Claremont, NH), Dothan Brook School (White River Junction, VT), Hartland Elementary School (Hartland, VT), Newbury Elementary School (Newbury, VT), Richards Elementary School (Newport, NH), Samuel Morey Elementary School (Fairlee, VT), Tunbridge Central School (Tunbridge, VT), and Westshire Elementary School (West Fairlee, VT).

(Featured photo, top, and final photo by Heidi Reynolds)


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