Shakespeare for Inner-City Youth

Can you imagine reciting Shakespeare by heart in the 3rd grade?

Robinson Shakespeare Company from Better World Books on Vimeo.

In 2008, Christy Burgess founded the Robinson Shakespeare Company at our first-ever literacy partner, the Robinson Community Learning Center in South Bend, Indiana.

Ever since their first performance, Macbeth, there has been huge success and buy in with students and parents. The Shakespeare Company works with youth in 3rd-12th grades.

Right now, the Company is working on The Tempest. The young actors are donating half of the proceeds from the play to Tsunami relief in Japan.

Not only is the program fun, it is also successful! In the English Speaking Union Shakespeare Monologue Competition, the Robinson actors won 1st place in each category in 2009 and in 2010 won five out of six. They also have placed in the top three in state every year they have participated.

Christy says “It’s not just about Shakespeare. It’s not my goal to make brilliant Shakespeare actors. The Robinson Shakespeare Company is about building self-confidence, self-esteem, the ability to speak publicly, and learning how to trust each other as an ensemble.”

“My favorite part is seeing the growth in the students. Tiana (photo below) was so nervous before she performed her first play, she said her tummy hurt.  Afterward, we talked about how much fun she had.  When her Notre Dame Shakespeare partner said she was nervous, Tiana patted her hand and told her about her own stage fright,” shares Christy.

Last year, Better World Books donated 40 scripts each for four Shakespeare shows to the program. This year, we are awarding the Robinson Shakespeare Company with a $10,000 grant through our LEAP program. The grant will fund a six week intensive summer Shakespeare program for inner city urban youth.

Hear from Robinson Shakespeare Company members:

  • “I never thought I could actually go up on stage and act, so it gave me confidence”
  • “Before I would read Shakespeare and not know what they were talking about and now I can read it and understand and make jokes about it.  The entire thing made me think that Shakespeare wasn’t a boring guy but that he was really cool.”
  • “If I can conquer acting, I can pretty much conquer anything!”
  • “I’m not a good team player; I don’t consider myself to be. I’d like to be, but I get annoyed really quickly.  I know what it feels like to be up there on stage and not feel like I’m getting it.  I couldn’t loose patience with other people, because I didn’t want people to loose patience with me.  I know other people were trying their hardest and it made me understand people more. I think it will transfer over to other activities that I have to do.”

When did you learn Shakespeare for the first time and how did it translate to your life? Share your story below…

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