Chicago Shakespeare Theater bringing classic stories to students

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Celebrating 30 Years of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, actors and actress have been taking the stage at Navy Pier to bring classic stories to life.

Yet, it may be the shorter versions of these timeless tales that are making an even bigger impact. Eyewitness News Anchor Judy Hsu takes us to the theater for a performance that is making us Chicago Proud.

The Short Shakespeare program has been traveling to Chicago area schools for 25 of the 30 year history of Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

"It's essential to bring theater to all schools and all students. When a school is under resourced and they may not have a robust theater program or if they do this give student an opportunity to see stories come to life," Marilyn Halperin, director of education and communications for the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

The cast of Romeo & Juliet took over the Visual and Performing Arts wing of Benito Juarez Community Academy not just to act but leaving a lasting impression on the students.

"I took away what Romeo said about trying to be diverse and going against what people think you are," said sophomore Hailey Hernandez. "It's like a privilege because not a lot of people get to see these kind of shows and especially Shakespeare Theater.
"Their director wanted a more diverse output to represent Chicago and that's how come they had the cast that they had because Chicago is not just full of like one specific type of person it's diverse. I love how she said that you may not identify as Juliet or Lady Capulet but you might identify as Romeo or Benvolio or Tybalt or any other character and that kind of stuck with me," said senior Alanis Lucio.

Cast members say students grasp the lessons within the story and apply it to their own lives.

"They are drawing parallels between the characters and themselves and that is such a powerful thing because Romeo and Juliet are very powerful characters," said Andrea San Miguel, who plays Benvolio. "They are young people who are attempting to change their worlds. If these students can see themselves in these characters they very well could do that and be effected by that."

Chicago Shakespeare Theater plans to expand to offer more shows to students across Chicagoland.

"Next fall we open up our third theater on navy pier, the yard. With the yard comes our ability as an education department more performances for students. So yes, next year means a big expansion of the teachers, schools and students we can serve," said Halperin.

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