Northern Stage's Class Act: Shakespeare in the Schools Program More Than Doubles in Size in Second Year

On the heels of last year's success, Northern Stage brings Class Act: Shakespeare in the Schools to Dothan Brook School in Wilder, VT, Newbury Elementary School in Newbury, VT, Hartland Elementary School in Hartland, VT, and Rivendell Academy in Orford, NH.

Class Act: Shakespeare in the Schools, now in its second year, is Northern Stage's in-school residency program that brings teaching artists into Vermont and New Hampshire classrooms. Students learn how to speak Shakespeare's poetry with confidence, develop believable characters, and execute a public performance of one of Shakespeare's plays. A teacher from one of the Shakespeare in the Schools' classrooms wrote last year, "You turned 42 rambunctious fourth graders into Shakespearean actors, and they were loving it. You took an autistic boy and gave him his dream role. You took a girl with depression and applauded her acting talents. You took a bullied kid and allowed him to get laughs. You gave our students more in those four weeks than we could ever explain."

Northern Stage completed the Class Act: Shakespeare in the Schools program in residence at Hazen Union High School in Hardwick, VT, in the Northeast Kingdom last month, by request of and made possible through the Highland Center for the Arts, a new emerging arts organization in Greensboro, VT. The students from Hazen Union worked under the direction of Northern Stage company members and performed an abbreviated version of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Dothan Brook School and Hartland Elementary participated in the pilot program last year that culminated in two completely booked performances at the Barrette Center for the Arts. Lanni Luce West's 4th grade from Dothan Brook and Larissa McAree's 8th grade from Hartland Elementary are currently rehearsing an abbreviated version of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Newbury Elementary School and Rivendell Academy will participate for the first time this year. Newbury's Jeff Goodell and Geraint Jones's 5th and 6th grades and Rivendell's Jennifer Bottum's 7th and 8th grades are currently rehearsing an abbreviated version of Macbeth.

Four teaching artists are shepherding the rehearsal process in the schools: Ashton Heyl (Yale MFA Graduate, Ruth in Northern Stage's Living Together), Chris Flockton (Theater Director for Artistree Community Arts Center and Gallery), Mitch Marois (Musical Theater BFA from Carnegie Mellon and Founding Associate Producer for JAG Productions), and Casey Predovic (North Carolina School of the Arts Graduate, George in Northern Stage's Our Town).

The program culminates with each class performing the plays for their peers in school assemblies, with a final performance for family and friends in the Byrne Theater at the Barrette Center for the Arts. Director of Education Eric Love says of the program, "Shakespeare in the Schools allows all students in an entire grade at participating schools to experience a professional rehearsal process: auditioning, analyzing text, practicing blocking, memorizing lines, and mastering their characters. This program is important because it allows us to work with all students, not just those who have the means to set aside time and money to take classes at Northern Stage. In the lobby after a performance last year, a teacher came up to me and said 'I've never seen parents this happy before.' Theater creates community by bringing people together to share a common experience. What better common experience to have than a group of parents, teachers, and friends seeing an entire grade of students thrive performing at a professional theater."

Class Act: Shakespeare in the Schools is provided to each school at no cost and is made possible in part by generous contributions from individuals and businesses. If you would like to support this program, please visit or contact the Northern Stage box office at 802.296.7000.

Northern Stage is a regional non-profit LORT-D professional theater company with a mission to change lives, one story at a time. Based at the crossroads of New England -- the Upper Valley of the Connecticut River -- Northern Stage's intimate space sets the stage for actively involving its audiences with ambitious productions and expansive educational programs. Founded in 1997, Northern Stage has offered more than 115 high-quality, professional productions of new works, classics, and musicals. The company celebrates its 20th Anniversary Season this year and annual attendance is now over 30,000.

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