CHICAGO SHAKESPEARE SLAM Unites More Than 150 High School Students

More than 150 Chicagoland high school students and teachers unite to explore Shakespeare's language and celebrating their own voices.

By: Dec. 07, 2023
CHICAGO SHAKESPEARE SLAM Unites More Than 150 High School Students
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Chicago Shakespeare Theater brings together students from high schools across the region to celebrate the power of Shakespeare's language—and their own voices—in the seventh annual Chicago Shakespeare Slam.

A series of Saturday workshops and regional preliminary bouts throughout the fall culminate in a spirited, fun-filled Final Bout on Monday, December 11 at 6:00 p.m. on the stage of the Courtyard Theater at Chicago Shakespeare. Emcees warm up the crowd and an onstage DJ drops beats as teams perform, cheered on by a full house of fellow participants, family, and friends.

 

SLAM teams advancing to the Final Bout on December 11 include: Francis W. Parker School (Chicago), Kennedy High School (Chicago), Kenwood Academy (Chicago), Lindblom Math and Science Academy (Chicago), Mundelein High School (Mundelein), Niles North High School (Skokie), Oak Park and River Forest High School (Oak Park), Taft High School (Chicago), and Universal School (Bridgeview). Round Lake High School (Round Lake) will perform the opening act of the evening.

 

SLAM encourages students to “Be Seen, Be Heard, Be Creative, Take Risks, and Play as an Ensemble.” Students participating in last year's SLAM expressed how the program offers the opportunity to explore their relationship to Shakespeare's work and celebrate their own individuality. A student from Lindblom Math & Science Academy said, “Chicago Shakespeare Slam gives you the ability to take such a significant piece of work and then combine it with something that's relatable to us,” and a student from Tri-Point High School shared, “I stand on stage and it's okay for me to just be myself.”

 

Each year, SLAM participants engage with Shakespeare's work through two rounds. In the first, they stage a scene from a Shakespeare play, and in the second, the “Dream Round,” they devise performances that pair a particular character, theme, or plot point from a Shakespeare play with more contemporary artists, writers, and world events. This year, students are engaging with one of Shakespeare's most famous plays, Romeo and Juliet. A tale of young love found and tragically lost in a divided community, this play offers a rich landscape for students to explore. Its complex characters and fast-paced action give students a playground for their imaginations, and their ability to connect the material to their own lives is evident in the Dream Rounds; students have cut, spliced, and re-imagined language from Romeo and Juliet alongside the Loving v. Virginia court case, songs by Taylor Swift and Olivia Rodrigo, the animated series Steven Universe, and the recent film Barbie, to name only a few.

 

SLAM 2023 emcees are Charence Higgins and Arik Vega, who keep students laughing, dancing, and supporting one another in the high-energy party atmosphere of the bouts. Higgins is also a SLAM educator artist, and her recent credits include Describe the Night at Steppenwolf Theatre and Beneatha in A Raisin in the Sun at American Players Theatre; Vega, returning after emceeing last year's SLAM, is a company member of Visión Latino Theatre Company and recently performed in Marriott Theatre's Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story. They are accompanied by DJ Beats – Enrique Arroyo. In addition to Higgins, four other educator artists have guided participants through the program: Devin Christor, Jarrett King, Kevin Long, and Sonya Madrigal. SLAM is spearheaded by Chicago Shakespeare's Education team, consisting of Nora Carroll, Grace Grindell, Mersedez Hoover, and Roxanna Conner, joined by SLAM education partner Dana Aviles and Spanish language consultant Alex Paredes-Ruiz.

 

SLAM is just one component of Chicago Shakespeare's award-winning education programs, which have impacted approximately two million students to date. Recognized as a national leader in the field, Team Shakespeare arts-in-literacy programs support the work in classrooms across the region for tens of thousands of students each year by bringing complex texts to life onstage and through a variety of professional learning opportunities for teachers. In Spring 2024, Chicago Shakespeare will welcome students with Short Shakespeare! Romeo and Juliet, an abridged production of Shakespeare's tragic love story. Adapted and directed by Mikael Burke, the production will be presented for weekday student matinees as well as 11:00 a.m. matinees for the public on Saturdays, February 22–March 20, 2024 in the Courtyard Theater. This year, Chicago Shakespeare also celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Bard Core program: a year-long professional learning seminar that introduces Chicago Public School teachers to drama-based strategies for engaging students—including struggling and reluctant readers, and English language learners—with Shakespeare and other challenging texts. Educators can take advantage of professional development opportunities, free workshops, and digital classroom resources throughout the year.

 

To learn more, visit www.chicagoshakes.com/slam2023.

 

The schools participating in Chicago Shakespeare Slam 2023 include:

Francis W. Parker School, Chicago

Intrinsic Schools – Belmont Campus, Chicago

Kennedy High School, Chicago

Kenwood Academy High School, Chicago

Lincoln Park High School, Chicago

Lindblom Math and Science Academy, Chicago

Little Village Lawndale High School, Chicago

Mundelein High School, Mundelein

New Trier High School, Winnetka

Niles North High School, Skokie

Oak Park and River Forest High School, Oak Park

O-School, Chicago

Round Lake High School, Round Lake

Senn Arts High School, Chicago

Sullivan House High School, Chicago

Taft High School, Chicago;

Tri-Point High School, Cullom

Universal School, Bridgeview

University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, Chicago

Warren Township High School, Gurnee

 

Regional Tony Award-recipient Chicago Shakespeare Theater produces a bold and innovative year-round season—plays, musicals, world premieres, family productions, and theatrical presentations from around the globe—alongside nationally recognized education programming serving tens of thousands of students, teachers, and lifelong learners each year. Founded in 1986, Chicago Shakespeare's onstage work has expanded to as many as twenty productions and 650 performances annually. CST is dedicated to welcoming the next generation of theatergoers; one in four of its audience members is under the age of eighteen. As a nonprofit organization, Chicago Shakespeare works to embrace diversity, prioritize inclusion, provide equitable opportunities, and offer an accessible experience for all. On CST's three stages at its home on Navy Pier, in classrooms and neighborhoods across the city, and in venues around the world, Chicago Shakespeare is a multifaceted cultural hub—inviting audiences, artists, and community members to share powerful stories that connect and inspire.




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