Shakespeare in Action is Canada’s leading classical theatre company for young audiences. This non profit organization was founded in 1988 by Michael Kelly and it is dedicated to making Shakespeare accessible to youth, regardless of their means or language abilities.
“My idea was if we could get students to get up and start speaking Shakespeare, then the actual breath of Shakespeare’s words would come alive,” said Kelly.
Located in the basement of Central Commerce Collegiate Institute, Shakespeare in Action provides workshops to drama students with English as their second language.
Drama and ESL teacher Kevin Parkin is delighted to have his students learn from Kelly.
“Shakespeare has a rhythm to it and that rhythm helps the students really get into the text,” said Parkin. “So even for the student that doesn’t quite understand the words yet, they start to get the rhythm of it and the words start to make sense.”
These workshops are one hour long and they have reached thousands of youth across Toronto.
“He makes Shakespeare fun, that’s why I like it,” said ESL and drama student Yessevel Rodriguez.
These workshops provide students with the tools to overcome many of the challenges associated with studying Shakespeare’s plays and language.
“You need to build their articulation skills, they need to feel confident in speaking because this is the one thing that holds them back,” said Kelly. “They have the brain capacity; they’re all exceptionally smart students.”
This unique opportunity has given these students the confidence to come out of their shell and has provided the tools to improve their English skills.
“Getting them exposed to Shakespeare now and actually making it fun and understandable,” said Parkin. “I believe is essential to their education.”