Following on the heels of its nationally recognized anti-violence school tours based on “The Tempest” and “Twelfth Night,” the Colorado Shakespeare Festival has hit the road with a new production of “Much Ado About Nothing.”
The highly praised program, co-created with the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence at the University of Colorado Boulder, brings abridged productions of Shakespeare’s plays into schools to stimulate discussion about the “cycle of violence.” More than 38,000 Colorado schoolchildren have participated in the program, which was launched in 2011.
Professional actors perform the play and lead students in small-group exercises exploring issues raised, such as gossip and bullying. Actors receive training through the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence and, among other things, educate students about Safe2Tell, an anonymous tip line to report bullying.
The new production focuses on the potential damage caused by gossip and the power of language, said Amanda Giguere, director of outreach for the festival.
In the play, Beatrice and Benedick are “frenemies” known for their constant verbal sparring. Their friends play a prank on them by gossiping within earshot about their mutual affection. In the meantime, the villain Don John fabricates a nasty rumor about Hero’s infidelity, which results in her public humiliation on her wedding day.
“Gossip and rumors can quickly damage a reputation and can have a negative impact on a person’s self-esteem,” Giguere said. “This play explores the power of words. When does a ‘merry war’ turn hostile? When does teasing go too far? What kind of damage can rumors cause? It’s a perfect vehicle for engaging students with questions about the cycle of violence and the negative impact gossip can have on a school climate.”
Some 26 percent of high school students report that other students have told lies or spread rumors about them, according to Beverly Kingston, director of the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence.
“Every day, kids are faced with difficult issues like gossiping and spreading rumors,” she said. “This play brings these issues to life and empowers students to reflect on these topics and see how they can make better choices.”
Whether they are exploring rumor-mongering, bullying or other harmful behaviors, one key goal of the plays and workshops is to help students feel empowered.
“One of the best things schools can do is to promote a positive school climate where students feel physically and emotionally safe,” Kingston said. “School climate is continuously created in every single interaction. This play is a tangible action toward building a positive school climate.”
Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s anti-violence production of “Much Ado About Nothing” is available for booking. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 303-492-1973 or visit coloradoshakes.org/education/csf-schools.
The Colorado Shakespeare Festival is a professional theater company in association with CU-Boulder and has performed the works of Shakespeare every summer since 1958. The Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence is part of CU-Boulder’s Institute of Behavioral Science. The anti-violence school tour is funded in part through grants from CU Outreach, the Boulder Arts Commission, the OAK (Outstanding Acts of Kindness) Foundation and One Lafayette.
The current tour began Feb. 11 and remaining tour dates include:
- Today: Heatherwood Elementary (Gunbarrel)
Friday: Brady High (Lakewood) and Jefferson Academy Elementary (Broomfield)
Tuesday: Ouray School
Wednesday: Ridgway Schools
March 7: Cherokee Trail High (Aurora) and CU-Boulder
March 14: Boulder Country Day
March 18: Endeavor Academy (Centennial)
March 20: Lincoln Academy Charter (Arvada)
March 21: McGlone Elementary (Denver)
April 1: Estes Park Schools
April 2: Louisville Middle School
April 3: Stein Elementary (Lakewood)
April 4: Estes Park Schools
April 8: Colfax Elementary (Denver) and East Elementary (Littleton)
April 9: Niwot Elementary
April 10: Bromwell Elementary and Columbian Elementary (Denver)
April 11: Rocky Mountain Elementary (Longmont) and Longmont Estates Elementary (Longmont)