Members of Congress Take the Stage and Steal the Show in Promoting National Endowment for the Arts' Shakespeare in American Communities
Young Shakespeare scholars from DC and Los Angeles join in with powerful performances highlighting importance of arts education
October 29, 2003
The National Endowment for the Arts hosted a lively event on Capitol Hill last evening to celebrate Shakespeare in American Communities - the largest tour of William Shakespeare's plays in our nation's history - with members of Congress, Hill staffers and students. U.S. Representatives and two groups of public school children participated in the evening's entertainment, performing skits and recitations to honor the greatest playwright in the English language (see attached photos).
Among the evening's highlights was a Congressional skit with excerpted lines from Shakespearean plays King Lear, Measure for Measure, Macbeth and others. Eight members of Congress, wearing Elizabethan costumes, participated including Rep. Cass Ballenger (R-NC), Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL), Rep. Jim Leach (R-IA), Rep. Thomas Petri (R-WI), Rep. Jack Quinn (R-NY), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Rep. Nick Smith (R-MI). Also performing with members was Jonathan Katz, CEO of the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies.
"As Shakespeare said, 'All the world's a stage,'" said Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY), co-chair of the Congressional Arts Caucus. "Now, NEA is helping to bring that stage to every community in America. Shakespeare in American Communities will give audiences in all 50 states the opportunity to enjoy live performances of works by the world's greatest playwright. This wonderful program will enrich our communities and provide valuable educational experiences for our children. I commend the NEA and Chairman Gioia for their tireless work to promote the arts in America."
Shakespeare in American Communities brings professional productions of Shakespeare and educational activities to more than 100 communities in all 50 states, including U.S. military bases. The initiative is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with The Sallie Mae Fund and Arts Midwest. As part of the celebration, Arts Endowment Chairman Dana Gioia provided updates on the tour, currently underway. Since the official kick-off on September 20, the tour has visited 23 communities in 16 states and will continue through November 2004.
"We celebrate this tour in our nation's capital because Shakespeare in American Communities is a program for every American to enjoy," said Chairman Dana Gioia. "I am delighted children and adults from every part of the country are able to experience the drama and excitement of live Shakespearean theater."
In addition to performances, Shakespeare in American Communities offers educational programs in local schools, artistic and technical workshops, and symposia about the productions. The Arts Endowment, with the support of The Sallie Mae Fund, has produced a teacher resource packet designed to help teachers present Shakespeare to their students and to help them launch recitation contests.
The agency conducted a Shakespeare recitation contest with DC-based Duke Ellington School of the Arts. Two high school students - Shaka Kondo and Samira Wiley - won the contest and performed dramatic scenes from Richard III and Romeo and Juliet during the Capitol Hill event.
To close the evening, nationally-recognized teacher from Hobart Boulevard Elementary School in Los Angeles, Rafe Esquith, attended the event with four sixth-grade students to highlight the importance of the educational aspects of the program. Esquith led the children (for whom English is a second language) in an impressive re-enactment of the opening of Henry V and the Saint Crispin's Day speech.
"By working with the arts, my students are learning about life," said Esquith. "The qualities and skills they develop by performing Shakespeare - discipline, responsibility and understanding - are important to doing well in all school subjects. Shakespeare is the foundation of everything we do in our classroom and the key to my students' success."
The National Endowment for the Arts: The mission of the National Endowment for the Arts is to enrich our nation and its diverse cultural heritage by supporting works of artistic excellence, advancing learning in the arts, and strengthening the arts in communities throughout the country. Established by Congress in 1965, the Arts Endowment is an independent agency of the federal government and is the largest annual funder of the arts. Since then, it has awarded more than 120,000 grants in all 50 states and the six U.S. jurisdictions. For more information about Shakespeare in American Communities or the Arts Endowment or please visit www.arts.gov.
The Sallie Mae Fund: The Sallie Mae Fund, a charitable organization sponsored by Sallie Mae, achieves its mission to increase access to a post-secondary education for America's children by supporting programs and initiatives that help open doors to higher education.
Arts Midwest: Based in Minneapolis, Arts Midwest enables individuals and families throughout America's heartland to share in and to enjoy the arts and cultures of the Midwest region and the world. Arts Midwest connects the arts to audiences throughout the nine-state region of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. One of six non-profit regional arts organizations in the United States, Arts Midwest's history spans more than 25 years. For more information please visit www.artsmidwest.org.
National Endowment for the Arts · an independent federal agency