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IDEA To Action

EDUCATION & CREATIVE COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT


A theater is defined by its community, and we strive to actively welcome the broadest possible community to participate and partner in our work. As we engage with students, teachers, and education leaders, we create our programming through an anti-racist lens that reflects critical race theory pedagogy. We extend our commitment to anti-racism and accessibility into engagement, discussions, and planning with external constituents, collaborators, and audiences. Through active listening, advocacy, and resource-sharing, we will uplift organizations and individuals on the front lines of activism and community-building.

Our Objectives


Shakespeare in the Curriculum

  • Make it a practice to analyze Shakespeare’s writing, with a focus on the text, language, and characters, through an anti-racist lens, helping to make the invisible visible to ourselves, teachers, students, and adult learners.
  • Model in our work with teachers how to initiate productive conversations about constructions of racial identity in and around Shakespeare's plays as we work with Shakespeare and other authors, fostering classrooms where it is safe to raise sensitive, sometimes challenging conversations and questions.
  • Explicitly address anti-racist pedagogical practices in our professional development work, including Bard Core sessions with Chicago Public School teachers, and in our teacher handbooks and materials.
  • Attend to the issues and language we inherit in Shakespeare's plays as a tool to explore how his canon has been used as a colonizing force, exported to solidify Western culture and white European culture's supremacy across the globe. Situate Shakespeare’s work within the history of English colonization taking root during his lifetime.
  • Make canon formation and “bardolatry” critical subjects of inquiry, exploring their origins in culture-building and colonization in our work with teachers and students, as well as with adult learners.
  • Structure the Education Department's own professional learning to include regularly scheduled discussions based on articles, podcasts, and other resources focused on decolonizing the curriculum, Shakespeare and critical race studies, anti-racist pedagogy, and culturally responsive teaching.

Partnerships with Schools

  • Acknowledge that our most diverse audiences currently reside in our education programs, and commit to continuing our efforts to identify, reach out to, and partner with under-resourced schools with a majority of BIPOC students.
  • Complete an audit of the schools we serve across our programs in order to quantify and understand the BIPOC representation in those schools. Based on our findings, work to increase our service to teachers and students from schools with a greater representation of BIPOC students.

Audience Discussions and Engagement Programs

  • Articulate our dedication to the principles of anti-racism and critical race studies in our programs that engage adult audience and learners. Shakespeare's work remains exclusionary when race—and especially the constructs of whiteness—remain invisible. In our work with audience members, we must challenge the "progressive" social value of color-blindness as we foster open, frank discussions about race.
  • Encourage actors participating in discussions with audiences to respond to audience members' questions, speaking authentically from their own experiences and identity, helping actors find ways to make space for themselves in their responses to audience members.
  • Prepare and train audience engagement facilitators to step into conversations between audience members and artists that could be heard or interpreted as racist—whether to diffuse the situation or facilitate an exploration of the comment's implications, however difficult. This preparation will occur on a show-by-show basis, based on the play's interpretation (casting, design, setting, etc.).
  • Integrate BIPOC authors’ writing and artists' works on equitable level into seminar-based adult learning classes.

Scholars, Instructors, and Educator Artists

  • Identify, recruit, train, and partner with an increasingly diverse pool of scholars, instructors, and educator artists across our education programs.

Creative Community Engagement

  • Acknowledging the ways in which the word “community” can sometimes function as code for “other,” develop a working definition that aligns with our usage of “community” in reference to relationships and connections with organizations and individuals that invites the broadest spectrum of people to participate.
  • Partner with a diverse and inclusive cohort of community-based organizations, artists, and arts groups to co-develop mutually enriching programming rooted in reciprocal trust.
  • Transform the Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks program into a year-round creative community engagement initiative that prioritizes the unique and evolving needs of neighborhoods and community-based partners, as well as creativity, collaboration, and community bridge-building. The three-year pilot program will include:
  • A reimagined summer tour that pairs neighborhood artists and arts group with Chicago Shakespeare Theater collaborators to co-create a multi-disciplinary piece in conversation with Shakespeare’s plays to be performed in neighborhood parks across the city.
  • The development of a Community Partner Collective, with year-round creative programming developed in alignment with each individual partner’s goals, including (but not limited to) workshops, panels, advocacy efforts, resource sharing, and relationship building.
  • The establishment of an Artistic Collective, with year-round creative engagement and performance opportunities for vocational and avocational artists and arts groups.
  • Professional development and employment opportunities.
  • Invite partners into the development, management, and assessment of all community-based programs.
  • In conversation with partner artists and organizations, rigorously assess all community programs and partnerships to ensure that when Shakespeare’s canon is included in creative community engagement programs, it is used in service of diverse local and global cultures and perspectives.

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