UArts Collaboration Brings 'The Othello Project' to Local High Schools

Brind School, Philadelphia Young Playwrights and Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre develop unique educational program featuring faculty member and 'Othello' actor Forrest McClendon

February 12, 2013

The Ira Brind School of Theater Arts at the University of the Arts has collaborated with Philadelphia Young Playwrights and the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre to develop "The Othello Project," a unique educational program reaching more than 100 local students. "The Othello Project" coincides with the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre's professional production of "Othello," starring Tony Award-nominated and Barrymore Award-winning faculty member Forrest McClendon, who will work with students from Girls High School, South Philadelphia High School, Constitution High School and Nueva Esperanza to craft monologues, scenes or short plays that will be performed onstage for their communities and "Othello" audiences.

"The Othello Project" will pair a classroom teacher from participating schools with teaching artists from both organizations for a series of lessons and workshops exploring the themes of "Othello" in a residency environment, helping students take a moment from the play that resonates with them and bring it into 2013. McClendon will visit with each classroom to offer his expertise as a teaching artist and his perspective as the actor playing "Othello." Students and their school communities will be offered opportunities to see the performances for free during student matinees and on Wednesday nights throughout "Othello's" run, which begins March 13.

"The work teaching artists will do in collaboration with classroom teachers will encourage students to go deeper into Shakespeare to ask, 'Why now? Why here? What can we learn from this play as citizens in Philadelphia today?'" says Mindy Early, associate director for Education and Program Services at Philadelphia Young Playwrights. “But dialogue will not stop there. As the students share their work with the audiences who see 'Othello' and with the community at large, they will step into the role of artist-mentors themselves, encouraging audience members to watch 'Othello' through the same contemporary mode of inquiry as they did."

Adds Chris Melohn, director of Education and Community Partnerships for the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre, "We are thrilled to be a part of such an innovative and collaborative project that fuels creativity, sparks the imagination and enhances the classroom experience. 'The Othello Project' aligns perfectly with the theatre's mission of making excellent Shakespeare productions and education programming accessible to all, plus providing the highest quality theatre education in Philadelphia schools."

"The Othello Project" was made possible by funding provided by the Stockton Rush Bartol Foundation and the Suzanne Roberts Cultural Development Fund, as well as individual honorary producer Nancy R. Posel.

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