TN Shakespeare Company Partners with Company d, Memphis VA, Jail East, Hope Academy
Tennessee Shakespeare Company, the Mid-South's professional, classical theatre and education organization, announces new partnerships with Company d and the Memphis Veterans Administration Medical Association while also expanding its Shakespeare programs for adjudicated youth at both Jail East and Hope Academy.
Last week, TSC announced its new multi-year education partnership with the Germantown Municipal School District, joining its ongoing partnership with Shelby County Schools to bring cutting-edge, classical curriculum into elementary, middle, and high school classrooms and to bring students to their feet while learning.
TSC is spending August in residence with Company d. Nationally recognized, Company d is a dance company of young adults with Down syndrome under the artistic direction of choreographer Darlene Winters. Founded in 2001, Company d is committed to inspire, empower, and teach individuals with Down syndrome who have an inherent aptitude for the performing arts.
TSC Education Manager Carmen-maria Mandley and TSC Education artists guide participants through the tumultuous world of Romeo and Juliet. Using movement and text, the dancers are immersed in Shakespeare's images and encouraged to discover their personal connection with the characters of the play.
"Company d dancers are having a dynamic experience with TSC this week," says Winters, Company d founder and Artistic Director. "The play and its language are being brought to life with interactive methods. The partnership with Tennessee Shakespeare Company is the first partnership with a theatre company in this region. I am so excited about this new and unique experience for individuals with Down syndrome, which will enrich artistic growth and expand cultural literacy skills."
Also in August, TSC begins working with veterans at the Memphis VA Medical Association. This program brings together service veterans with theatre practitioners to use the plays of Shakespeare in addressing combat-related traumatic and re-integration issues. The model, created by the Feast of Crispian Project in Milwaukee, WI, was created to strengthen the personal psychological resources available to service veterans - especially those with post-deployment health issues - through the practice and skills of theatre combined with the timeless themes and imagistic language of Shakespeare.
"The well-being of America's veterans is of the utmost importance to us in VA," said Memphis Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center Director, David K. Dunning. "By working with Tennessee Shakespeare Company, whose goal is to address combat-related traumatic issues through acting and theatre practices, we are able to positively impact post-deployment health issues of many veterans."
In 2015 TSC brought its nationally-acclaimed anti-violence residency The Romeo and Juliet Project to a little-known SCS public school, The Hope Academy, serving students incarcerated at the Shelby County Juvenile Detention Center. After two years of successful engagement with the Project, TSC was asked last Spring to expand its programming for incarcerated youth to include boys ages 14-17 being held in C Block at Jail East. These children are awaiting trial for serious crimes.
This summer, TSC has been in residence both at Jail East and Hope Academy, exploring interactive programs titled "Comedy in Shakespeare," "Poetry in Performance," and "Fundamentals of Improvisation." Each participant contributed to the group's anthology of original poetry, and wrote personal short stories and scripts. TSC continues the partnership this Autumn when The Romeo and Juliet Project returns to both facilities.
"The opportunity for incarcerated youth to speak and work with Tennessee Shakespeare Company is one of our most impactful and powerful programs," says Joyce Anderson, Juvenile Manager of the Shelby County Sheriff's Office. "These young men critically think about who they are and present themselves differently to the world because of their participation. This might be the first time they connect to themselves and push themselves. They dig down within. TSC gives them models to express their feelings, which they probably have never done. For maybe the first time in their lives, they think about the world around them and their role in the community. TSC is one of the strongest parts of what Memphis offers to incarcerated youth, and we look forward to a long, strong, and lasting relationship."
"It is my hope that through existing and new programming being forged by TSC's Education Program that we continue to invite more members of our Memphis community to allow their most curious, eloquent, and compassionate selves shine through the timeless themes and language in William Shakespeare's plays," says TSC's Mandley. "It's our greatest joy to assist in this effort, to facilitate rooms where the bigger feelings of joy, grief, love, rage, and more can be held and experienced safely in Shakespeare's words. We encourage play, partnership, empathy, and communication; and in doing so, we see the most elegant and illuminating moments one might see in such settings. We have boundless gratitude and excitement about moving forward with these organizations."
Funding for these programs, partnerships, and the season is generously provided by the Barbara B. Apperson Angel Fund, Nancy Copp, Tennessee Arts Commission, FedEx, Independent Bank, International Paper, Milton T. Schaeffer, the family of Owen and Margaret Tabor, and Shakespeare in American Communities, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.
Tennessee Shakespeare Company
Tennessee Shakespeare Company is a professional 501(c)(3) theatre and education organization which performs the plays of William Shakespeare as environmental theatre seasonally; performs classical and Southern writers seasonally; and provides year-round educational and training programming. Now beginning its tenth season, Tennessee Shakespeare Company seeks to sustain a Mid-South classical theatre that both nurtures artists and encourages audiences to exaltation, curiosity, and wonderment; be a center for the community dedicated to re-discovering faith in life by increasing awareness of reality and expanding imagination through an emphasis on the performance, education, and training of William Shakespeare's works. For more information: www.tnshakespeare.org.