350 high school students from across Chicagoland

unite in Shakespeare slam

Battle of the Bard

Shakespeare 400 Chicago premieres education initiative

Finals at Chicago Shakespeare – November 14, 2016


Chicago—October 17, 2016—Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) joins forces with Chicago Youth Shakespeare (CYS) to engage 350 high school students from 40 public, private and parochial schools across the region in the first annual Battle of the Bard (BOTB)—inaugurated as part of the yearlong Shakespeare 400 Chicago. Inspired by the electric energy of poetry slams, this robust arts-in-education initiative challenges teams of students to perform scenes from Shakespeare’s plays as well as share their own creative mash-ups of the playwright’s work in a slam-style arena. Students are coached by their teachers and supported by a team of CST and CYS theater professionals. A series of Saturday workshops and regional preliminary bouts culminate in the Battle of the Bard Finals on Monday, November 14 at 6:00 p.m. on the Chicago Shakespeare stage, enjoyed by a star-studded panel of judges and cheered on by a full house of fellow teams, classmates and friends.

A new national model for a community-building Shakespeare slam, Battle of the Bard honors the unparalleled power of Shakespeare’s language when it is catalyzed by students’ imagination. Battle of the Bard is just one component of Chicago Shakespeare’s award-winning education programs, which have impacted well over one million students.

Two slam rounds encourage ensemble performance and focus on exploring Shakespeare’s characters in dialogue with one another and with the audience:


  • In the primary Scene Round, teams perform a single scene from any of Shakespeare’s plays.
  • In the Ensemble Round, students create and perform a collective ensemble piece using text from any of—and possibly multiple—Shakespeare plays or sonnets.

Following Saturday Team Workshops with students and their teachers in September, teams now prepare for regional Preliminary Bouts, scheduled to take place:


  • Saturday, October 22 Kenwood Academy High School (5015 S. Blackstone Ave, Chicago)
  • Saturday, October 29 Oak Park and River Forest High School (201 N. Scoville Ave, Oak Park)
  • Saturday, November 5 Senn High School (5900 N. Glenwood Ave, Chicago)

The program culminates with a raucous and fun-filled Finals Bout on Monday, November 14 at 6:00 p.m. on the Chicago Shakespeare Courtyard Theater stage. Emcees warm-up the crowd and DJs drop beats as teams take the stage with Shakespeare. Guest artists from Chicago Fire and the Hamilton cast will play a role in the evening’s festivities—with additional special guests to be announced.

By playing with the endless possible interpretations of the text and thinking outside the box, Battle of the Bard students discover Shakespeare’s capacity to speak to all—and find their own voices in Shakespeare’s words. BOTB brings together students from Chicago Public Schools, suburban public schools, and private and parochial schools in a supportive and fun environment, building a culture of community that spans the Chicago region.

The public, private and parochial high schools throughout Chicago and the metropolitan area participating in Battle of the Bard are:

Alcott College Prep, Chicago Lake View High School, Chicago
Amandla Charter School, Chicago Lincoln Park High School, Chicago
Aqsa School, Bridgeview Lindblom Math and Science Academy, Chicago
Aurora Central Catholic High School, Aurora Loyola Academy, Wilmette
Benito Juarez Community Academy, Chicago Mather High School, Chicago
British International School of Chicago, Chicago Multicultural Academy of Scholarship, Chicago
Carl Sandburg High School, Orland Mundelein High School, Mundelein
Park Chicago High School for the Arts, Chicago New Trier Township High School, Winnetka 
Christian Liberty Academy, Arlington Heights Niles North High School, Skokie
De La Salle Institute, Chicago Oak Park and River Forest High School, Oak Park
Elk Grove High School, Elk Grove Phillips Academy High School, Chicago
Village Fenton Community High School, Bensenville Prosser Career Academy, Chicago
Foreman College and Career Academy, Chicago Rich Central High School, Olympia Fields
Francis W. Parker School, Chicago RTC Medical Prep High School, Chicago
George Westinghouse College Prep, Chicago Ridgewood High School, Norridge
Glenbrook South High School, Glenview Senn Arts Magnet High School, Chicago
Islamic Foundation School, Villa Park  Sullivan House High School, Chicago
John Hancock College Prep, Chicago University of Chicago Laboratory School, Chicago
Kelvyn Park High School, Chicago Waukegan High School, Waukegan
Kenwood Academy High School, Chicago Westmont High School, Westmont

Chicago Shakespeare Theater brings Shakespeare’s text to life onstage for 40,000 students every year as a partner in literacy with Chicago Public Schools, and offers robust 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 by First Lady Michelle Obama in a 2014 White House ceremony, and the Folger Shakespeare Library’s national Shakespeare Steward Award for innovative teaching of Shakespeare in American classrooms.

Battle of the Bard is inaugurated in 2016 as part of Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s yearlong, citywide celebration of Shakespeare 400 Chicago, which brings together the city’s world-class institutions and leading artists from around the globe to interpret and reimagine Shakespeare’s work in 850 events. The festival is engaging more than 500,000 Chicagoans and visitors in events spanning theater, opera, music, dance, cuisine, exhibitions, workshops and discussion series.

More information on the program at

Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) is a leading international theater company and the recipient of the Regional Theatre Tony Award®. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Barbara Gaines and Executive Director Criss Henderson, CST is dedicated to creating extraordinary production of classics, new works and family programming; to unlocking Shakespeare’s work for educators and students; and to serving as Chicago’s cultural ambassador through its World’s Stage Series. Through a year-round season encompassing more than 650 performances, CST attracts 225,000 audience members annually. One in four of its audience members is under eighteen years old, and today its education programs have impacted the learning of over one million students. CST is proud to take an active role in empowering the next generation of literate, engaged cultural champions and creative minds. During 2016, CST has spearheaded the Shakespeare 400 Chicago festival in addition to announcing the creation of an innovative performance venue, The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare.

Chicago Youth Shakespeare (CYS) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing Shakespeare performance, education, and outreach opportunities to Chicago-area high school students. Under the leadership of Founding Director Manon Spadaro, CYS programs focus on teaching and learning Shakespeare through performance, providing young adults with a deeper understanding of Shakespeare, of themselves, and their connections to others. CYS made its entrance onto the Chicago “stage” just two years ago with three programs designed to inspire and empower students artistically and academically, and build community across diverse lines: The Chicago Youth Shakespeare Ensemble (CYSE), its performing high school Shakespeare company; the CYS Workshop and School Residency program, providing classroom teachers and their students opportunities to engage actively and collaboratively with Shakespeare’s texts; and the Battle of the Bard High School Shakespeare Slam, in partnership with Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Through programming and collaboration with arts education partners, CYS is proud to be part of the broadening landscape of Shakespeare-through-performance learning opportunities for high school students throughout the Chicagoland area.

Shakespeare 400 Chicago is a yearlong international arts festival in 2016 celebrating the vibrancy, relevance and reach of Shakespeare as the world commemorates the four hundred years since the playwright’s death in 1616. Spearheaded by Chicago Shakespeare Theater, the festival unites 60 of the city’s world-class institutions, and welcomes scores of leading artists from nations around the world including Australia, India, Mexico, the United Kingdom and beyond. Events spanning theater, opera, music, dance—even cuisine—celebrate, interpret and reimagine Shakespeare’s work. Shakespeare 400 Chicago will engage more than 500,000 Chicagoans and visitors to our City through 850 events. With leading support from the Julius Frankel Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Pritzker Military Museum & Library, this quadricentennial celebration is the world’s largest and most comprehensive celebration of Shakespeare’s enduring legacy. 


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