Young Company Receives Arts Midwest 2021-22 Shakespeare in American Communities Grant

BY Nicole Saldarriaga, June 9, 2021

A Midsummer Night's Dream (2015) at Classic Stage Company

Arts Midwest has announced that The Young Company—a collaboration between the Classical Theatre of Harlem and the School of the Arts' MFA Theatre program—is among the recipients of their Shakespeare in American Communities grants. Of the $1.17 million, $1 million will be distributed among 40 professional theatre companies that partner with schools, and $170,000 will go to 10 organizations that partner with facilities in the juvenile justice system. 


For more than 15 years, The Young Company has sought to reinvision the world of Shakespeare for younger generations. Through their partnership with The Classical Theatre of Harlem, third-year Acting MFA students produce and present a Shakespeare play designed to appeal to younger, traditionally underserved audiences. The actors are also trained as teachers and put these skills to use in middle and high schools throughout NYC, bringing to light the universal themes of Shakespeare plays and contextualizing the Bard for young students who may not have been able to connect with his work before. 


Shakespeare in American Communities is a theatre program of the National Endowment for the Arts with a similar mission—to support high-quality productions and learning opportunities in middle and high schools as well as juvenile justice facilities. In partnership with Arts Midwest, the program has been awarding grants to theatres and other programs for 19 years. 


According to Arts Midwest Senior Program Director Christy Dickinson, “After a year filled with ever-changing circumstances within communities, Shakespeare in American Communities is proud to support theater companies and organizations as they work alongside educators to bring live experiences back to students. Theater educators and teaching artists across America are planning in-person and creative hybrid approaches that connect young people with William Shakespeare’s plays. This programming helps students develop social and emotional skills important to their success.”


National Endowment for the Arts Acting Chairman Ann Eilers added, “Through its expressive power, the arts have an enormous capacity to connect people across divides. Delving into the stories and characters of William Shakespeare is particularly fitting now, as we begin to emerge from the pandemic and re-engage more fully with the people and issues in our communities.”


The Young Company will use their grant to produce a live performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream. They will also design classroom workshops to help students explore the text and themes of the play—all of which will be offered to participating schools with greatly reduced or free tickets.