IDEA To Action


Shakespeare remains a cornerstone in the curriculum of many secondary schools for a variety of reasons. It will come as no surprise to anyone who studied Shakespeare in school that his plays can pose a real challenge for students and teachers alike. We set out to support this central component of the English curriculum, and to make it accessible, achievable, creative work—through live performance, professional learning for educators, teaching resources, and opportunities for students to perform Shakespeare. Adapted from rehearsal hall practice, drama-based strategies offer to students of all reading levels a powerful tool to engage with challenging texts through increasing fluency and comprehension, exploring character perspective and choices, and building empathy.

Each student enters with knowledge and experiences rooted in real life. The learning communities we create must be reflective and responsive, making space for students’ own knowledge and experiences. Our students must know that what they experience outside the classroom has value and purpose inside their classrooms, too, where they are encouraged to question and critique their lived experience.

A theater is defined by its community, and we strive to actively welcome the broadest possible community to participate and partner in our work. In our work with students, teachers, and education leaders, we are actively engaged in creating programming that is both culturally responsive and anti-racist in its approach.

Our Objectives

In our commitment to IDEA, our Education programs will:

  • Make it a practice to analyze Shakespeare’s writing, with a focus on the text, language, and characters, through a culturally responsive lens.
  • In our work with teachers, model how to facilitate productive conversations, fostering classrooms where it is safe to hold challenging conversations.
  • Explicitly address anti-racist pedagogical practices in our professional development work with educators.
  • Situate Shakespeare’s work in the history of early modern England as the process of colonization was taking root.
  • Make canon formation and “bardolatry” subjects of inquiry in our work with teachers and students, as well as with adult learners.
  • Commit to continuing our efforts to reach out to and partner with under-resourced schools with a large percentage of students of color.
  • Work to increase our service to teachers of color, as well as teachers from schools with a greater representation of students of color.
  • Commit to fostering open, frank discussions with our audiences about race and identity as they relate to the artistic work and choices on our stages.
  • Encourage actors participating in discussions with audiences to speak authentically from their own experiences and identity in response to audience members' questions.
  • Integrate the work of authors of color into our adult learning classes.
  • 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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