2019 DPS Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore

DPS Shakespeare Festival – To Be or Not to Be?

2019 DPS Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore

2019 DPS Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore

To Be or Not to Be?

Denver Public Schools, DPS Foundation and the Denver Center for the Performing Arts declare “let there be a 37th annual Shakespeare Festival.” Not plague, nor pestilence, nor pandemic will interrupt the pleasure that more than 5,000 schoolchildren of all ages take in the country’s oldest and largest Shakespearean festival for youth.

Conceived of by Joe Craft in 1983 (who recently passed away), the annual Shakespeare Festival has introduced children as young as five years old to the still relevant texts of the Bard.

Joe Craft “knew every line of Shakespeare backward and forward,” said DCPA Teaching Artist Rachel Taylor, “not because someone somewhere along line made him memorize it, because he LOVED it.

“He was the Dumbledore of Theatre.”

Dumbledore, Macbeth, Hamlet…Craft could play any role, but more importantly, he inspired tens of thousands of children from schools throughout Denver county and beyond. He “believed that the arts are integral to creating whole humans, whole learners,” continued Taylor. “He was like this magical filter. He could breathe in text and notes and color and exhale them out as a living mural of song and poetry and art.”

And songs, poetry, art — plus a little bit of swordplay and lots of acting — are on full display each year at this annual event. These festivities will continue in 2021 but will move online to ensure the health and safety of all participants.

“While we will miss the energy of our in-person festivities downtown,” said DCPA Teaching Artist Samuel Wood, “we have some creative plans up our sleeve to keep the fun and fanfare going. After all, we have a tradition to uphold!”

The Denver Center for the Performing Arts’ Education Department will continue to advise students on the scenes they will perform. Additionally, DCPA Education will offer a variety of free virtual workshops to participating schools and educators.

“Last year we provided 116 workshops to nearly 3,500 students,” said DCPA Executive Director of Education & Community Engagement Allison Watrous. “By moving online, we may be able to engage even more students this year using our real-time guided workshops. Plus, we offer collaborative lesson planning, master class facilitation, as well as free online resources to help teachers with their curriculum development.”

While Denver Public Schools has not confirmed a date for its 2021 Shakespeare Festival, interested schools may submit their intent to participate online. Watch this space for future announcements.