Published February, 21 2017
Volume 1, Number 2

Livermore Shakespeare Festival Celebrates Language

By Tina Hansen
Pulse Writer

At a time when the English language, spelling out words and using proper grammar seems to be dying a slow Lady Macbeth style death, the words of William Shakespeare are more relevant now than ever and the enduring legacy of Shakespeare being taught in schools and performed on stage is a reminder of the importance of language.  

It has been more than 400 years since Shakespeare composed his last play, yet his prose, plots and characters are as alive today as they were when his plays were originally staged.

The Livermore Shakespeare Festival is keeping the legacy of Shakespeare’s words alive through stage productions and educational programs. It is easy to see why as the themes he wrote about, such as love, treachery, honor, bravery, and political intrigue, resonate loudly today.

Livermore Shakespeare Festival‘s educational program is called “So wise so young” ; an in-school literacy program for K-12 students. The goal of the program is to enhance the current curriculum by focusing on improving language skills, comprehension, expressing ideas through drama, writing and reading, developing imagination and relating key themes in Shakespeare’s work to their own lives.  

Livermore Shakespeare Festival sends two professional teaching artists into each second-grade classroom in the Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District for one hour a week for a full 10 week program.

“We are currently in all 40 second-grade classrooms in Livermore and reaching about 1,000 students every year. The program is common core aligned and focuses on increasing language skills,” says Katie Marcel, Managing Director of Livermore Shakespeare Festival.

Shakespeare was the master of showing the human condition in all its forms and his memorable character creations reveal that theater is a powerful teaching tool because it gives students a visual demonstration of how to express themselves by providing them with language skills, how to show emotions and how to communicate thoughts and feelings to others.

The Livermore Shakespeare Festival education program is a reminder of the significance and impacts a community theatrical company has on children because they are not yet self-conscious about speaking out, asking questions or trying out new things.

“The second-grade is the ideal time to introduce kids to Shakespeare because they have no preconceived ideas about Shakespeare at that age because all of the words are new words for them, so they are brave about discovering and trying out new words. Their openness and eagerness lend itself to this kind of curriculum. The students also relish the opportunity to learn “on their feet” instead of sitting in desks and being lectured to,” says Marcel.  

By prioritizing a learning experience that enriches and enhances connections with language and history, the program does not contemporize the language. “We perform Shakespeare using the First Folio, which includes punctuation and grammar from Shakespeare’s original manuscripts and we focus our productions on clear storytelling rather than high concepts. This authenticity builds actor-audience rapport during each performance, creating productions known for their lively, accessible, and understandable construction,” adds Marcel.

In addition to the educational program, Livermore Shakespeare Festival produces theatrical events that celebrate connecting with the community.

This year’s season starts June 29th through July 30th, at Wente Vineyards Estate Winery and Tasting Room and features the magical comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Edmond Rostand’s beloved romantic comedy Cyrano de Bergerac.

The Livermore Shakespeare Festival also offers a summer camp for children at the Bothwell Center July 17-28 called “Some Have Greatness Thrust Upon Them."

For more information, please visit livermoreshakes.org/.