CST and CPS Team Up for HAMLET, 11/2-3

Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) announced today the 2012 partnership with Chicago Public Schools (CPS), CPS Shakespeare! Hamlet in which an ensemble of 28 students and teachers from nine CPS high schools will stage an adaptation of William Shakespeare's Hamlet.

The ensemble is currently engaged in an intensive five-week rehearsal process led by a team of theater professionals that includes text coaches and a fight choreographer. CPS Shakespeare! is a central component of CST's Team Shakespeare arts-in-education program, which has served more than 1 million students and teachers since its inception in 1991. Performances of CPS Shakespeare! Hamlet, adapted and directed by Kirsten Kelly, will be presented in Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Courtyard Theater on Friday, November 2 at 4:30 p.m. and Saturday, November 3 at 10:30 a.m.

Prior to Friday’s performance, CST Director of Education Marilyn Halperin will accept the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Shakespeare Steward Award on behalf of Chicago Shakespeare and will be joined by Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer, Jean-Claude Brizard. Chicago Shakespeare’s Education Department is being recognized for its ‘innovative teaching of Shakespeare’ and is the first arts organization to be a recipient of the award.

Collaborators on this year’s CPS Shakespeare! production includes 28 students and teachers representing nine high schools from across the Chicago Public School system: Al Raby High School, Alcott High School for the Humanities, Curie Metropolitan High School, Gage Park High School, Mather High School, Perspectives/ITT Math and Science, Prosser Career Academy High School, Steinmetz College Prep and Taft High School.

The CPS Shakespeare! program is now in its seventh year at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Teachers who participate in CPS Shakespeare! are alumni of Bard Core training, a professional development seminar offered annually to CPS teachers, exploring how the skills of theater practitioners can support best practices in literacy, and offer practical reading strategies and activities for CPS students. Teachers who are invited to continue their professional development through the CPS Shakespeare! program recruit up to three students from their school who will benefit most from the program. Both students and teachers audition for multiple parts and rehearse together as an ensemble during the five-week process. They work side-by-side, with the guidance of CST artists, on the interpretation of a text through exploring character, making active and purposeful choices, and practicing theatrical skills including vocal techniques and stage combat. Each year, the process culminates in two fully mounted performances in Chicago Shakespeare’s Courtyard Theater.

Ensuring the future of CPS Shakespeare!, Eric’s Tazmanian Angel Fund has made a generous commitment to support Chicago Shakespeare’s arts-in-education program. This fund also provides for the Eric Curtis Skowronski Spirit Award, providing a monetary gift to the school of each participating teacher for their support of the arts, literature or library programs.

Director and Adapter Kirsten Kelly, who developed the CPS Shakespeare! program with Halperin, returns to CST for her seventh year. An award-winning documentary film and theater director, Kelly has directed past CPS Shakespeare! productions of The Taming of the Shrew, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet. She most recently directed Big Love at The Hub in Washington, DC and Daniel Talbott’s production of Slipping at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater in New York. She is the associate artistic director of Roots & Branches Theater Company, a multi-generational theater company in New York.

Kelly’s other credits include: the Midwest premiere of Boston Marriage (After Dark Award for Best Director); Boy Meets Girl for Theatre Alliance (Helen Hayes Award nomination for Best Direction); and Savage Love/Tongues with the Juilliard Percussion Ensemble at Lincoln Center. Ms. Kelly is currently adapting the Newbery Award-winning young adult novel The Wednesday Wars for the stage. She is also directing a new feature documentary on youth homelessness, which is being Co-Produced by Kartemquin Films and recently won the MacArthur Documentary Film Grant and a Sundance Development Grant.

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