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Author: Olivia Lerwick

Zooming through the Bard

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced students and educators across the world to move school online faster than anyone could have dreamed. It has been a monumental challenge, and one that the Colorado Shakespeare Festival outreach programs met in stride. Within mere weeks of the lockdown, CSF had completed online training for colleagues in their Shakespeare Violence Prevention program, uploaded shortened scripts for Romeo and Juliet and Tempest meant for this year’s school tour and added extra sessions of the popular Bard’s Summer Book Club—all in the name of its mission to support students and teachers in their love of Shakespeare.

CSF Director of Outreach Amanda Giguere says Shakespeare is uniquely positioned to help students at this time. “Theatre is the art of stepping into another person’s shoes and trying to understand and enact their story. Working on a Shakespeare play also forces you to slow down, analyze each word and really be present with the big ideas the play is wrestling with.

“When you are working on live theatre, it’s all about being present, taking deep breaths and putting your thoughts into words. I can’t think of a better way to help young people process challenging times than by slowing down, breathing, and being present,” Giguere says.

Some of CSF’s offerings, such as the Bard’s Summer Book Club, are targeted toward adults, but many of them seek to enrich children’s lives through the words of the Bard all year round. With the help of dedicated teachers and eager students, CSF was able to move its Will Power Festival, which connects students with professional actors in order to study Shakespeare in depth, online through a video series and virtual classes.

While the online classes bring Shakespeare home, they also serve as a vital social connection in a time defined by isolation. “The virtual book clubs allow us to convene in Zoom to converse about these fantastic plays, but more importantly, to check in with our people and see how they’re doing,” Giguere explains. “We’ve [also] been holding listening sessions with a group of die-hard Shakespeare teens. All of it is about connectedness.

“Yes, Shakespeare is the thing that brings us together in these virtual spaces, but it’s the togetherness that is our focus right now.”

To learn more about CSF’s outreach programs visit https://cupresents.org/series/shakespeare-festival/about-csf/csf-education/