hakespeare Festival St. Louis Introduces Area Students to Cyber Bullying as Part of 2013 Education Tour

hakespeare Festival St. Louis Introduces Area Students to Cyber Bullying as Part of 2013 Education Tour

What's the Bard's take on cyber bullying?

Definitely, not cool. And more than 400 years later, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis is trying to spread the word. In its latest educational production on bullying titled "Winning Juliet," a bullied girl named Julie, afraid to audition for a part in the school play because of student harassment, sends the director her audition tape -- Juliet's suicide scene -- in a YouTube link. The video is hacked and goes viral because her classmates think the video is real; Julie is expelled. Performances, which are scheduled April 27 through May 5 at Clayton High School, will feature teenagers from five area middle and high schools who are participating in SFSTL's annual semester-long MetroYouth Shakespeare residency program.

In addition to the MetroYouth residency program, SFSTL has two educational touring shows, one of which -- "Quick Delight 12th Night" -- also focuses on bullying. These two touring shows, "Quick Delight" and "All the World's a Stage," are scheduled to be performed for approximately 26,000 students throughout the St. Louis metro area and beyond. This season's performances are currently touring through May 24.

"Quick Delight 12th Night" and its accompanying workshop, "Bullies and Brotherhood in 12th Night" highlights the Bard's most beloved comedy and, yet, allows students to dissect the bullying behavior in the play and understand how it relates to diffusing bullying behavior today. The program is targeted to students in kindergarten through high school.

This year marks the third for SFSTL's bullying-related education tour. In the past two years, the show has played to sold out audiences.

"I've always been intrigued by pairing a social issue with one of Shakespeare's play," said Rick Dildine, executive director of Shakespeare Festival St. Louis. "We have incorporated the bullying theme into our Education Tour shows the past two years, but in light of the cyber bullying issues occurring in schools and on social media sites nationwide, we felt this was an appropriate time to focus attention on it. We're using the power of the theatre to build awareness, teach empathy, and support communication."

"Winning Juliet" was written by SFSTL Education Direction Christopher Limber and playwright Elizabeth Birkenmeier. Grammy-winning composer Alonzo Lee composed the music. Emily Kohring will direct.

"The range of characters and conduct has not changed since Shakespeare wrote 400 years ago," Limber said. "It is often easier for students to begin discussing a difficult topic, such as bullying, that takes place in a play and then be invited to explore ways to confront and improve
similar situations in real life. These plays begin this important conversation with clear and compelling situations."

The other touring SFSTL education show, "All the World's a Stage," features key scenes from Shakespeare's greatest hits including "Romeo and Juliet," "Midsummer Night's Dream" and "The Tempest," to name a few.

During the past 12 years, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis has inspired more than 250,000 students with the Bard's advice through these artfully adapted productions for young audiences. These 50-minute text-based adaptations are commissioned from local playwrights and performed by five professional actor/teaching artists at schools and community venues.

The SFSTL Education Tour has received Kevin Kline Award nominations for Outstanding Production for Young Audiences every year since 2005. In 2008 and 2009, the organization won the Kevin Kline for "Me & Richard 3" and "Quick-Brewed Macbeth."

In addition to the Education Tour and MetroYouth Shakespeare, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis also offers the following programs to area students:

Residencies: Working intensively with teachers and students throughout the region, Festival Residencies for all ages use the in-depth study of Shakespeare to increase ensemble, analysis, and literacy skills.

Classes and Camps: Shakespeare Squadron is an advanced year-long training and performance program for teenage actors. Summer Shakespeare Camps are held at Crossroads College Preparatory School. Collaborative Summer Shakespeare Camps are developed with and run at COCA, Craft Alliance and new this summer, the World Chess Hall of Fame.

Partnerships: SFSTL partners with many community-based arts, cultural, and service organizations. Shakespeare Festival Reads is a monthly reading club co-sponsored by SFSTL and Left Bank Books. Lifelong Learning Institute is a collaborative program with Washington University, which provides insights into the concept and production leading up to the Festival in Forest Park.

In the past 12 years, the Shakespeare Festival has attracted more than 550,000 people to the main stage performances at Shakespeare Glen in Forest Park. The 2013 production of "Twelfth Night" is scheduled for May 24 through June 16. Preview performances are May 22-23. For more information on either the educational programs or the main stage show, please visit www.sfstl.com or call 314/531-9800.

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