More than 200 Chicagoland high school students and teachers unite for the return of

Chicago Shakespeare Slam

Telling their own stories in conversation with Shakespeare

Final Bout in the Courtyard Theater at Chicago Shakespeare on January 19, 2023

Chicago—December 20, 2022—Chicago Shakespeare Theater brings together students from 26 high schools across the region to celebrate the power of Shakespeare’s language—and their own voices—in the sixth annual Chicago Shakespeare Slam. A series of Saturday workshops and regional preliminary bouts throughout the fall culminate in a spirited, fun-filled Final Bout on Thursday, January 19 at 6:00 p.m. on the stage of the Courtyard Theater at Chicago Shakespeare. Emcees warm up the crowd and an onstage DJ drops beats as teams perform, cheered on by a full house of fellow participants, classmates, and friends.  After two years of virtual programming, Chicago Shakespeare is thrilled to welcome back this year’s SLAM in person.

SLAM teams advancing to the Final Bout on January 19 include: Francis W. Parker School (Chicago), Kenwood Academy (Chicago), Lindblom Math and Science Academy (Chicago), Mundelein High School (Mundelein), Niles North High School (Skokie), O-School (Chicago), South Shore International College Prep (Chicago), Taft High School (Chicago), Universal School (Bridgeview), and Warren Township High School (Gurnee).

SLAM encourages students to “Be Seen, Be Heard, Be Creative, Take Risks, and Play as an Ensemble.” A participating teacher from Sullivan House Alternative High School expressed gratitude for the program, which has helped their students put these goals into practice and gain confidence: “The whole atmosphere is conducive to making it safe and easy for students to step outside their usual boundaries.”

Each year, SLAM participants engage with Shakespeare’s work through two rounds. In the first, they stage a scene from a Shakespeare play, and in the second, the “Dream Round,” they devise performances that pair a particular character, theme, or plot point from the play with more contemporary artists, writers, and world events. This year, students are engaging with one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays—with the most infamous of his characters—Richard III. A story about power, revenge, and legacy that features fierce femme characters, Richard III is the perfect play for young people to explore right now. Its complex characters and action-packed world give students a playground for their imaginations, and their ability to connect the material to their own lives is evident in the Dream Rounds—participants have placed Richard III in conversation with songs by Billie Eilish and Taylor Swift, poetry by Claude McKay, the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender and the succession speech of King Charles III, to name only a few.

Beyond the artistic outlet the program offers, SLAM 22/23 has also focused on responding to the needs of teachers and students still grappling with the toll of COVID-19. More than half of participating students are experiencing SLAM for the first time—and most of those returning have only participated in a virtual capacity. In the wake of the isolation many young people experienced during the pandemic, SLAM has prioritized building community—both within a school’s team and among the many teams participating across the entire region, from Chicago Public Schools to the suburbs, and reaching all the way to Cullom in Central Illinois. A participating teacher coach from Warren Township credited the program with “creating a community of young artists.”

SLAM 2022/23 emcees are Arik Vega and Tafadzwa Diener, who keep students laughing, dancing, and supporting one another in the high-energy party atmosphere of the bouts. Vega is a company member of Visión Latino Theatre Company and was recently an understudy in Chicago Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure; Diener recently performed in 1919 at Steppenwolf Theatre and The Sound of Music at Marriott Theatre. They are accompanied by DJ Marvin Quijada, who is an ensemble member of Teatro Vista and has appeared in multiple Chicago Shakespeare and Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks productions. Six teaching artists have guided participants through the program, including Isabella Karina Coelho, Claribel Gross, Jarrett King, Kevin Long, Emily Ritger, and Alex Benito Rodriguez. SLAM is spearheaded by Chicago Shakespeare’s Education team, consisting of Marilyn Halperin, Nora Carroll, and Grace Grindell, joined by Arts Leadership Fellow Delaney Piggins.

Chicago Shakespeare Slam is just one component of the Theater’s award-winning education programs, which have impacted two million students to date. Chicago Shakespeare Theater brings Shakespeare’s text to life for thousands of students every year, and offers celebrated professional development programs and curriculum resources for more than 2,500 teachers annually. Chicago Shakespeare’s education programming has been honored with the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, presented in at the White House in 2014 by First Lady Michelle Obama, and the Folger Shakespeare Library’s national Shakespeare Steward Award for innovative teaching of Shakespeare in classrooms.

More information on the program at

The schools participating in Chicago Shakespeare Slam 2022/23 include:

Alcott College Prep, Chicago
Bishop Noll Institute, Hammond
Francis W. Parker School, Chicago
Huntley High School, Huntley
John Hancock College Prep, Chicago
Kenwood Academy High School, Chicago
Lindblom Math and Science Academy, Chicago
Little Village Lawndale High School, Chicago
Morgan Park Academy, Chicago
Mundelein High School, Mundelein
New Trier High School, Winnetka
Niles North High School, Skokie
O-School, Chicago

Oak Park and River Forest High School, Oak Park
Orr Academy High School, Chicago
Prosser Career Academy, Chicago
Proviso Mathematics & Science Academy, Forest Park
Round Lake High School, Round Lake
Senn Arts High School, Chicago
South Shore International College Prep, Chicago
Sullivan House Alternative High School, Chicago
Taft High School, Chicago
The University of Chicago Lab High School, Chicago
Tri-Point High School, Cullom
Universal School, Bridgeview
Warren Township High School, Gurnee

About Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Regional Tony Award-recipient Chicago Shakespeare Theater produces a bold and innovative year-round season—plays, musicals, world premieres, family productions, and theatrical presentations from around the globe—alongside nationally recognized education programming serving tens of thousands of students, teachers, and lifelong learners each year. Founded in 1986, the Theater’s onstage work has expanded to as many as twenty productions and 650 performances annually. Chicago Shakespeare is dedicated to welcoming the next generation of theatergoers; one in four of its audience members is under the age of eighteen. As a nonprofit organization, the Theater works to embrace diversity, prioritize inclusion, provide equitable opportunities, and offer an accessible experience for all. On the Theater’s three stages at its home on Navy Pier, in classrooms and neighborhoods across the city, and in venues around the world, Chicago Shakespeare is a multifaceted cultural hub—inviting audiences, artists, and community members to share powerful stories that connect and inspire.

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