Columbia Students Introduce Shakespeare to Young Audiences

March 3, 2010Bookmark and Share
Members of The Young Company and their students discuss the program. (5:08)
Since 2005, graduate students and alumni from Columbia’s School of the Arts (SOA) acting program have been working side-by-side with local middle and high school students to create Shakespeare productions tailored to young audiences. This year, their collaborative effort culminates in a 90-minute performance of Twelfth Night, which runs until March 5 at the Classic Stage Company, located in the East Village.
Each January, the acting group, called The Young Company, chooses one Shakespeare play to teach in New York City public and private secondary schools. With interactive workshops that help students conceptually understand the play and translate it into their own words, the Columbia actors breathe new life into Shakespeare’s challenging Elizabethan dialect. The training lasts from the beginning of January until late February. This year, over 30 schools participated in The Young Company’s program in local city schools.
This year’s performance of Twelfth Night was directed by Tony Speciale, associate artistic director at Classic Stage Company and an alumnus of the School of the Arts theater MFA program. Speciale and Brian Kulick, an associate professor of theatre and artistic director of the Classic Stage Company, believed the Shakespearean comedy would resonate with middle school and high school students because of its themes of identity and romance.
The workshops are an opportunity for Columbia students to gain valuable teaching experience, as well as a chance to hone their acting skills by performing a canonical work. They also spend time on voice training with School of the Arts professor and Shakespeare scholar, Kristin Linklater. And before The Young Company even enters the schools, the actors are trained as teaching artists according to the requirements of New York City’s Blueprint for Teaching and Learning in the Arts, created by the Department of Education to guide the teaching of the arts in schools.
For many of the young students, the play is the first chance to see a performance. After the play, the students are invited on stage to act out scenes alongside Young Company actors for their final acting workshop in front of an audience. Show times are during the day with select performances at night. Tickets are $25. The Classic Stage Company is located at 136 E. 13th St.