William Shakespeare is perhaps one of, if not the most, popular playwrights of all time. To help bring his work to life in today’s modern society, the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s Project 38 helps local schools put on plays from the 38 play canon.
This idea arose when the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company itself completed the 38 play canon. “We were so excited about bringing the complete canon to life as a company, we thought, ‘Why not bring it to life every year while bringing Shakespeare into more schools at the same time?’ says outgoing Project 38 Coordinator Maggie Rader. “And the rest was history.”
Now, Project 38 serves as an arts education initiative that celebrates Cincinnati Shakespeare’s strong working relationship with schools. Each year, this past school year included, Project 38 culminates into the Project 38 Festival at the end of the school year.
“It is a multi-day celebration in which all the students will gather and share what they’ve created with each other, their schools, family and friends, and with the community at large,” says Rader.
There have been more than 20 teaching artists from the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company that have helped to bring Project 38 to life. These teaching artists go into schools all over the Tri-State to work with more than 50 teachers and thousands of students.
Rader says that the entire 38 play canon has been brought to life in various forms for the last 2 years. “We’ve had a computer animated Midsummer Night’s Dream by St. Joseph Academy, and original work based on King John from Highlands High School,” she adds. There’s also been the Taming of the Shrew meets Inside Out from Oak Hills High School, a gender-swapped Romeo and Juliet from Sycamore High School, a musical retelling of Othello from Aiken High School, and a beautifully staged Merchant of Venice from Leaves of Learning.
Rader says that she’s heard plenty of stories about how Project 38 has benefitted local school children. “We’ve heard stories of kids staying in school because they finally have a creative outlet in the classroom,” she says. “We hear from parents, teachers, and students alike that because of this opportunity, students’ confidence, school performance, and overall well being has improved.”
Rader says that while they knew Project 38 would be a great opportunity for local school kids, they were blown away by the testimonials from the students about how this project has changed their lives for the better.
Plans for next school year are already in motion, according to Rader. “The schools are selected, plays are assigned, the dates for the P38 festival are set, and work has already begun to bring the canon to life yet again,” she says. “We can’t wait to see what magic this year may hold.”