TN Shakespeare Company Receives NEA/Arts Midwest Grant

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TN Shakespeare Company Receives NEA/Arts Midwest Grant

Arts Midwest has announced that Tennessee Shakespeare Company is one of just 40 theatre companies in the United States to receive its prestigious Shakespeare in American Communities grant for TSC's innovative Romeo and Juliet Project. This is the second consecutive year TSC has been awarded the grant as the youngest organization of the 40 theatres selected.

The grant is for $25,000, which TSC must match through private donations.

These awards mark the twelfth consecutive year of Shakespeare in American Communities, a national program managed by Arts Midwest in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The program introduces middle and high school students to the power of live theatre and the masterpieces of William Shakespeare. Since the program's inception in 2003, Shakespeare in American Communities has benefitted more than 2.25 million individuals, including 1.9 million students, with live performances and educational activities.

Among the other 39 theatre companies selected for 2014-15: American Shakespeare Festival, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Barter Theatre, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, Classic Stage Company, Folger Theatre, Guthrie Theatre, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, and Utah Shakespeare Festival. A full list of recipients may be found at www.shakespeareinamericancommunities.org.

TSC is being awarded the matching grant again this year to continue its life-changing, grade-raising Romeo and Juliet Project in five high schools in Memphis, four of which are Title One schools: Bartlett, Booker T. Washington, Carver, Kirby, and Ridgeway.

The Project, designed and managed by TSC Education Director Stephanie Shine, will visit entire ninth-grade classes in all five schools a total of four times, including three progressive playshops culminating in an interactive, intimate, in-school performance of Romeo and Juliet.

The production will highlight the pivotal decisions made in the play by both children and adults that lead to the deaths of five extraordinary teenagers - decisions that Memphis adults and teens can change in their own lives today to help shift the culture of violence in our community.

TSC's Teaching Actors and students are challenged to look past the beautified veil of romantic love often associated with the play. The play's prologue communicates something very different: children will die, and the audience will witness how each character chooses actions that permit it. The students are further challenged to see themselves in the story-telling, and afterwards, to articulate for themselves how they could help change this same story in their own lives.

Last season, the The Romeo and Juliet Project was immersed in four schools with an additional 19 schools participating in the full production of the play and talk-back. Nearly 450 student activities were achieved through the Project last season, exceeding 6,300 student interactions.

This year, the production of Romeo and Juliet will play inside each participating school, and it also will be available for booking by all schools in Shelby County. To book the touring production of Romeo and Juliet, please call TSC's Education Program manager Slade Kyle at (901) 759-0620.

"The impact of the performance of Romeo and Juliet on students has been life-saving," says Shine. "Even more important than falling in love with Shakespeare, live theatre, or making better grades - this impact, as was the original function of theatre, is humanitarian. Participating students realize that they have the ability to improve each others' lives. This is what gives The Romeo and Juliet Project profound meaning in our community."

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