Hackettstown High-Shakesperience-medAssistant Professor of Theatre Arts at Centenary College, Stephen Davis, has long been a teacher and advocate of the works of master playwright and poet William Shakespeare. For over five years, Davis has married his love of the bard and his love for education to help foster an appreciation for Shakespeare in the youth of New Jersey through a program sponsored by The Folger Shakespeare Library entitled Shakesperience, which will be hosted by Centenary Stage Company (CSC) for the first time on Tuesday, April 29th on the campus of Centenary College.

The Folger Shakespeare Library—or Folger for short—is located in Washington, D.C. and is a world-renowned research center on Shakespeare. Its well-known public programs include plays, concerts, literary readings, family activities, and exhibitions, as well as numerous K-12 and college programs for students and professional development opportunities for teachers.

In an effort to create a statewide Shakespeare Festival for students in grades 5 to 12, The Folger has worked with The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey and Rider University for the past 6 years, “introducing the students to performance-based instructional methods, activities, and exercises to get them up and on their feet speaking Shakespeare’s language, and having fun while doing so,” says Director of Education at The Folger, Bob Young. Young worked together with Davis and CSC General Manager Catherine Rust to begin recruiting schools in western New Jersey as a way to continue expanding the program while promoting CSC’s own education outreach program. Davis stated that educators jumped on the opportunity to be included because “there’s nothing like this in Warren County currently.”

Over the course of the spring semester, Davis has visited with four high school groups to help workshop scenes from some popular Shakespearean plays, as well as his popular sonnets, that will be presented at the Shakesperience event at Centenary in April. The groups that will be participating this April include North Warren Regional High School, Warren County Technical School, Hackettstown High School, and a Home-School group based out of New Brunswick. All groups will have the opportunity to participate in various workshops during the day lead by experts in the field of dance, voice and theatrical make-up. CSC hopes to grow this free program in the coming years. School representatives interested in learning more about the program can contact Stephen Davis at 908-852-1400 ext. 2422 or Catherine Rust at ext. 2204.

Part of CSC’s outreach program is their Young Audience Series, which presents a variety of shows that tour to schools all over New Jersey. Davis has adapted a new play for this program entitled Shake It Up: Magic, Mystery, and Mayhem incorporating scenes from three of Shakespeare’s most popular works; A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, and Romeo and Juliet. The show premiered in early April and will be available to tour to schools in the Fall.
The Folger opened in 1932 as a gift to the American nation from Henry Clay Folger and his wife Emily Jordan Folger. It is administered by a Board of Governors under the auspices of Amherst College, Henry Folger’s alma mater.

The 2013-14 season of performing arts events at the Centenary Stage Company is made possible through the generous support of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the NJ State Council on the Arts,  and CSC sponsors, including Premier Sponsor Heath Village Retirement Community, Silver Sponsors Hackettstown Regional Medical Center, The Holiday Inn in Budd Lake, and Fulton Bank, Bronze Sponsors The Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation and Wells Fargo Bank, and Centenary Stage Company members and supporters.

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