Tennessee Shakespeare Company has been announced as one of only four professional regional theatre companies to receive both the Shakespeare in American Communities-Schools grant and Shakespeare in American Communities-Juvenile Justice grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest for programming during the 2022-23 season.
As a Schools grant awardee, TSC is one of 40 professional theatre companies across the nation selected to perform a Shakespeare play with a professional team of actors for middle and high schools and conduct related educational activities for students.
As a Juvenile Justice grant awardee, TSC is one of nine organizations across the nation selected to engage youths within the juvenile justice system with the works of Shakespeare through theatre education programs.
The Schools grant award is for $25,000 and requires a 1:1 match for the launch of TSC’s new Macbeth Initiative in Memphis area schools. The Macbeth Initiative is built upon TSC’s professional, six-actor production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The production celebrates the stagecraft known to Shakespeare’s touring groups while illuminating a moral dilemma that resounds within the fabric of modern America: Can I serve myself first at the expense of my society? The project includes a teacher-training session that empowers classroom educators in their teaching of the play; an in-class playshop where students live the characters, speak Shakespeare’s text, and face the play’s moral dilemmas; and a 15-minute post-show talkback. The play will perform for 2,800 students on TSC’s Tabor Stage and in at least 13 public/charter core partnering high schools, most of which serve at-risk students.
The Juvenile Justice grant award is for $20,000, does not require a match, and will pay for TSC’s certified Teaching-Artists to provide 80 program sessions over the year for incarcerated youth ages 13-17 held at Memphis’ Jail East and Shelby County Juvenile Detention Center. In two, 90-minute sessions per week per facility, TSC encourages literacy, self-discovery, communication, and empathy through the exploration and performance of speeches and scenes from Shakespeare’s plays for at least 60 participants.
“When most theatres shut down these past two years, TSC created programming that creatively and safely responded to our community’s needs through Shakespeare,” says TSC Founder and Producing Artistic Director, Dan McCleary. “Our mission as a professional service organization through the classical arts was confirmed, and we are grateful to the NEA and Arts Midwest for rewarding this creative service by investing in TSC’s intrepid artists as they, in turn, invest in Memphis’ children, educators, and incarcerated youth. We are very proud to have the NEA and Arts Midwest in our country.”
Celebrating its 20th year in 2023, Shakespeare in American Communities is a theatre program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest. The program supports high-quality productions and educational activities exploring the work of William Shakespeare in middle schools, high schools, and juvenile justice facilities throughout the United States. For the first time this year, theatre companies were able to choose to either perform a play by Shakespeare or select an adaptation or new play that incorporates Shakespeare’s scenes or monologues. Paired with these performances, each company will host educational activities with students to creatively explore Shakespeare’s work and its context. These performances and educational events will take place between August 1, 2022, and July 31, 2023.