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Yearlong Celebration of Shakespeare By Library Offers Teachable Moments

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By guest blogger Alyssa Morones

Philadelphia's Free Library is proving that a classroom isn't the only place that students can learn about Shakespeare. To celebrate the Bard's 450th birthday, the library, in conjunction with the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theater and other cultural and nonprofit organizations in the area, will host a variety of activities throughout 2014 focused on the playwright's work.

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The year's events will bring Shakespeare's classic works to life, as well as modern incantations of them, through hands-on activities and crafts as well as screenings and performances.

The celebratory year kicks off on Jan. 8 at the Parkway Central Library in Philadelphia with a morning of music and theatrical performances. In fact, area students will take part in the festivities. Students from West Philadelphia High School will perform a scene from their hip-hop version of a Shakespeare play while actors from the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theater will provide their classical interpretation of Romeo and Juliet.

Later in January, the library will celebrate Twelfth Night, one of Shakespeare's comedies, with readings from the script, hands-on crafts, and music. Throughout April, children and teens can attend a weekly craft event where they will learn to create Renaissance craft projects such as masks, jester hats, and puppets. Students can also become more acquainted with Shakespeare through the magic of movies--throughout the year, the library will host screenings of the bard's works in their silver screen forms.

Of course, there's no shortage of ways to engage young people with Shakespeare. We blogged a while back about a collection of National Endowment for the Arts grants, including one for $33,000 to the Atlanta Shakespeare Co. That effort was designed for middle and high school students to learn all aspects of performance and theater, attend professional productions, and mount fully staged productions at school and in the community.

Know of other promising efforts to get young people better acquainted with the Bard outside the classroom? Let us know by posting a comment.

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