Engaging students and teachers in Shakespeare’s words
William Shakespeare has remained a cornerstone in the American school curriculum for more than a century. His understanding of human nature is so encompassing and so penetrating, and his language so unparalleled in its beauty and specificity, that his plays bridge generations, nationalities and cultures. Shakespeare also poses a special challenge to students—and to teachers. His texts are some of the most difficult a student is asked to read. Chicago Shakespeare Theater views it as a privilege and a responsibility to support this annual academic pursuit, making it accessible, achievable, fun, and enlightening—for students and teachers alike.
For the past 17 years, our arts-in-education program has been uniting the skills of theater artists and teachers to bring Shakespeare to life in the school curriculum through live performance, workshops, discussions, and innovative learning. More than 50,000 teachers and students participate in Team Shakespeare each school year, making CST one of the largest theater education programs in the country.
Two central tenets guide Team Shakespeare: (1) a wholehearted belief that Shakespeare’s plays are most enjoyed as active storytelling; and (2) that the skills of theater practitioners—voice, fluency, imagination, intent—are all skills that any strong reader must actively and consistently engage in. Both principles reinforce basic literacy and reading comprehension in ways that cannot be achieved by traditional classroom study alone.
CST reserves more than 90 professional Shakespeare matinees for student audiences. Approximately 60 performances take place at the Theater's Navy Pier home, while the remainder is conducted through tours to Chicagoland schools. Each year, nearly 550 schools—public, private, parochial, urban, suburban, rural—come together to enjoy this expansive live performance series.
Free teacher workshops and teacher handbooks give educators an expansive set of engaging classroom study methods. Strong emphasis is placed on active wordplay, exploration, and dramatic reenactment of Shakespeare’s texts. We teach educators how actors break open Shakespeare’s texts, how theater artists work to imagine scenes, and how these pursuits link directly to best practices in literacy.
Residing on Chicago's Navy Pier, CST places a special value on service to local public schools, working to build strong alliances with administrators and educators in neighborhoods throughout Chicago. A number of special efforts highlight this relationship, from student ticket subsidies to yearlong teacher training courses, and direct artistic work with students and teachers. Chicago Public Schools is our local district, and we are strongly committed to keeping Shakespeare a vital part of its Language Arts curriculum.