The Michigan Shakespeare Festival has received two grants to fund free tickets for all Jackson County high school and college students to attend the 2018 summer MainStage Season. The grants were made by the John George Foundation and the Jackson Literary and Arts Association. The MSF summer season opens July 12th and will feature productions of Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Measure For Measure, as well as Aphra Behn’s The Rover. This is the 24th season of the Michigan Shakespeare Festival in Jackson.
“The purpose of these grants,” writes William M. Abbott of the John George Foundation in a news release, “is to provide the youth of Jackson County with increased access to Shakespeare productions, including complimentary tickets for high school and college students, and special programming for high school students.”
“The works of Shakespeare remain a cornerstone of high school English classes,” says Janice L Blixt, MSF’s Artistic Director. “Yet students often find Shakespeare difficult, because Shakespeare did not write books, but plays. They are not meant to be read, but to be seen performed. Live performances are the best means for high school students to see why these plays are still being performed 400 years after they were written. We’re overjoyed to offer this opportunity to local students to experience Shakespeare in a positive and entertaining way.”
As the Official Shakespeare Festival of the State of Michigan, the MSF brings the classical poetry and plays of Shakespeare to as many students as possible. In past years the number of free tickets the MSF offers has been limited. This year the shows are available to all students in the county, free of charge. There are also discounted tickets for chaperones.
Certain performances have additional educational benefits. Friday and Saturday evening performances include a “Bard Talk” before the show, with an MSF artist talking about elements of the play about to be performed. And after every matinee performance the theatre company holds a talkback for audience members to ask questions directly to the Artistic Director and the cast.
Grant funding will also allow the MSF to bring its touring company to Jackson County schools during the school year. In 2010, the MSF launched its educational touring company, the MSF High School Tour, also known as The Misfits. That first year they performed Romeo & Juliet for six schools in Jackson County. Since then the tour has expanded to reach between 6,000 and 9,000 students each year across Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana, performing both Romeo & Juliet and Macbeth. The MSF Tour visits over 45 schools each year, 25% of which are in underserved urban and rural communities.
For more information about the Festival season, go to michiganshakespearefestival.com. Student tickets can be obtained by calling the Potter Center box office at 517-769-8600 use the code “JAXLEARN”.