Summer with Shakespeare: Acting company brings the Bard to local students

Students from Therrell High School take part in a workshop with Atlanta Shakespeare Company members. 

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”

Four hundred years later those words still ring true as the Shakespeare Tavern and its Atlanta Shakespeare Company (ASC) bring the Bard of Avon to life this summer at Harper-Archer Middle School, South Bend Arts & Recreation Center and nearly a dozen other camp offerings in Decatur and Midtown.

“It’s active and engaging and yet, sneakily enough, it does help buoy up their learning and even prepare them for the upcoming year,” said Laura Cole, Director of Education and Training at The Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse and The Atlanta Shakespeare Academy.

At Harper-Archer, ASC teaching artists will guide 150 Atlanta Public Schools middle schoolers, who are building their skills to read at grade level, through a Literacy Thru Drama experience using Greek mythology and fables.

“This year we’ll teach them how to write their own scenes and then act them out for one another,” said Kati Grace Brown, ASC Educational Programs Producer.

Partnering with Emory University’s Graduation Generation, university students work side by side with academic instructors and attend the weekly drama workshops.

“We look for creative ways that are still effective. The idea is to get [the middle schoolers] engaged so that they will come consistently, matriculate through high school and graduate on-time with college or career plans in place. If you help with literacy, you help support the other subjects as well,” said Barbara S. Coble, Partnership Manager for Graduation Generation Education.

Program data shows marked improvement in student participant’s independent reading, but perhaps the best endorsement comes from the students themselves.

In July, at the South Bend summer camp, ASC teaching artists and actors will perform “How Shakespeare Won the West” and offer a variety of workshops on improv, stage combat, hip hop and more.

Students from Scott Elementary take part in the program.

“This will be our fourth summer partnering with South Bend, but the first time we are offering a performance for the students and programming that is not specifically Shakespeare,” Cole said.

ASC is excited that children, ages four through 14, had a say in the new program offerings.

“Last summer we took the time to ask what are you interested in learning about,” Cole said.

While The Shakespeare Tavern is a destination for live music, period costumes, outrageous sword fights, and a delicious meal, the company is also dedicated to reaching students where they are year-round.

“All of us are actors first and foremost, but we are committed to the idea of a teaching artist – a professional artist who develops a skill set to transmit that knowledge to inspire students,” Brown said.

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