The Festivals we host at the Folger are my favorite experiences of the year. Students pour into the Folger Theatre with all the energy their young frames can contain and explode with life onstage with Shakespeare’s words.
Sure: not everything always goes as planned. Lines are dropped; nerves get the better of someone; a cast-mate misses a cue… but on those days we hope students take away the knowledge that they can try again tomorrow. The Festival is not the be-all and end-all, but appreciating the language and trying something new is something to hold on to.
Our Secondary Festival takes place over seven days, with 8 schools participating each day. Each group has 25 minutes to present their piece – whether it’s a selection of scenes, an edited full play, or a montage of scenes from many plays creating something new. Between performances, our Mistress of the Revels plays games in which students die the deaths of the tragedies, race to finish Hamlet in under 32 seconds, and compare the comedic tropes of the canon. There’s a break for lunch in the middle, and a break for entertainment (provided by us) in which our commentators discuss the performances of the day and decide whom to recognize for their efforts in acting or understanding of the language. There is no competition for these recognitions, only a celebration of their achievements.
The Children’s Festival later this spring will be five days long with 6 schools performing each day. They’ll be entertained by each other, by an entertainer, and by our Mistress; and they will not get recognitions. Instead, they’ll process through the Folger with homemade banners and our special guest Queen Elizabeth I.
Are there Shakespeare festivals in your area? Tell us about them! We love hearing about (and seeing) Shakespeare performed by students of all ages!