King Lear to come to NYC schoolchildren in October 2012

8 December 2011

Park Avenue Armory and the Royal Shakespeare Company to bring a specially created production of King Lear to NYC schoolchildren in October 2012

Production to be Filmed for Distribution by New York City's Department of Education to All 1,700 New York City Schools in Spring 2013

New York, NY—December 7, 2011—Park Avenue Armory and the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) will bring a new Young People's Shakespeare (YPS) production of King Lear to New York during the last two weeks of October 2012, playing to more than 1,000 underserved New York City public school students invited by Park Avenue Armory. The performances at the Armory will be filmed by the RSC's in-house filming team working with a local crew and production manager. A specially commissioned DVD version, which will include supporting education resources for teachers and students, will be given by New York City's Department of Education to every school in NYC in Spring 2013, reaching more than 1 million students.

The new collaboration is a direct result of the RSC's six week residency last summer at Park Avenue Armory, which included YPS productions of Hamlet and The Comedy of Errors supported by pre- and post-show educational workshops provided by RSC ensemble actors and Park Avenue Armory teaching artists. The YPS productions were presented in the historic Board of Officers Room at the Armory to underserved young audiences from Out of School Time summer programs invited as part of Park Avenue Armory's on-going educational program. They were part the RSC's six-week residency in New York, a co-presentation by Lincoln Center Festival and Park Avenue Armory in association with The Ohio State University in which the RSC presented five Shakespeare plays on an exact replica of the RSC's Royal Shakespeare Theatre, which was erected in the Armory's vast Wade Thompson Drill Hall.

The RSC's YPS for 2012 will be a newly crafted 70-minute production of King Lear developed especially for young audiences aged 8 and upwards. Directed by Tim Crouch it will be an explosive first introduction to Shakespeare for students who are least likely to access this work. The YPS series is a key part of the RSC's education mission and the Company has been creating these edited versions of Shakespeare plays since 2008 as a way of transforming student experiences of Shakespeare. The program is inspired by the RSC's Stand up for Shakespeare manifesto which calls for young people to Do Shakespeare on their Feet, See it Live and Start it Early.

A hallmark of Park Avenue Armory's education program is sustained engagement with underserved New York City public school students, who learn to “think outside the box” conceptually and imaginatively. Through both exposure to world class artists and examination of the creative process over a range of artistic disciplines, the Armory gives students the tools and the freedom to think creatively and boldly in a setting that is inspirational and magical.

In addition to seeing the plays, Park Avenue Armory and the RSC have custom-designed a series of educational workshops to prepare the students for their first exposure to a Shakespeare play and to help them assess and contextualize what they have experienced. Each student will participate in three workshops led by RSC practitioners and the Armory's talented corps of teaching artists. The first workshop will provide an introduction to King Lear and Shakespeare's language. The second will take place with a pre-performance session highlighting the major plot points of the story the students are about to experience and a post-performance Q&A session with RSC ensemble actors from King Lear. The final workshop will occur a week after the students attend the performances, and will help them process their experience by using visual art, music, and/or movement to express what they've learned.

This new RSC's Young Peoples Shakespeare residency at the Armory will include:

  • Day-time performances over two weeks in the Armory's historic rooms, for up to 90 underserved students at a time.
  • Professional development opportunities for teachers delivered by the RSC and Armory teaching artists and practitioners.
  • Pre-show workshops for the students led by RSC artists and Armory teaching artists to introduce the language, characters and themes in the play.
  • Post-show workshops for the students led by Armory teaching artists that explore the play through the lens of different art forms and curricular subjects.

The collaboration and support of the NYC Department of Education will allow the performance to be filmed and distributed to all 1,700 NYC schools in spring 2013. Alongside the film, teachers will be able to draw on specially created RSC education resources, developed with Park Avenue Armory, the Armory Youth Corps, and NYC teachers to meet the requirements of the NYC curriculum. The RSC and the Armory will also offer professional development courses for elementary, middle and high school teachers during the launch week of the film.

'I am hugely excited about being able to return to New York next autumn with our new Young People's Shakespeare production of King Lear. We have loved working with Park Avenue Armory and their dedicated team and we are very lucky to have the backing of the Department of Education which will enable us to share the production and collaborative resources with teachers, teaching artists and students right across the City,' said RSC Artistic Director Michael Boyd. 'Tim Crouch's approach to Shakespeare is fresh, vivid and speaks directly to young people. Our short and punchy YPS shows have brought Shakespeare's work - and the very human dilemmas he tackles - to life for many thousands of UK children. I am looking forward to sharing this with young New Yorkers and exchanging ideas with some of the City's most inspirational teachers and artists.'

'The children who took part in this program last summer had an extraordinary experience,' said Park Avenue Armory President and Executive Producer Rebecca Robertson. '79 percent of them had never seen a Shakespeare play, and after the experience, 100 percent said they wanted to see another one . We are thrilled to once again partner with Royal Shakespeare Company to introduce New York City public school students to the work of the Bard as performed by one of world's greatest acting ensembles in the magical setting that is the Armory. We look forward to continuing and expanding our collaboration.'

'Over the past three years, the Royal Shakespeare Company and Park Avenue Armory have partnered with the Arts Office, sharing our goal to make theatre and English language arts more engaging and accessible for our students and teachers,' said Dennis Walcott, Chancellor, NYC Department of Education. 'We are grateful for their continued artistic and financial commitment to providing a high quality arts education to the City's Students.'

Lead private support for the return of the RSC's Young People's Shakespeare to America and Park Avenue Armory is being generously provided by The Thompson Family Foundation, The Sidney E. Frank Foundation and members of the RSC's US Advisory Council.

Further information

For RSC:
Nada Zakula
+441789 412622 (office) or +447831 766086 (cell)

Liz Thompson
+441789 412667 (office) or +44 7717 297 181 (cell)

For Park Avenue Armory:
Julia Kirchhausen, Resnicow Schroeder Associates
212-671-5161 (office) or 917-453-8386 (cell)

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