About the Program
One hundred and one theater companies across the United States have taken part in the NEA’s Shakespeare program since its inception eleven years ago. These companies have presented 66 of Shakespeare’s works through 7,600 performances and over 19,000 educational activities at more than 6,400 schools in 3,100 communities in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The first year
Shakespeare in American Communities began in 2003 as a project of the National Endowment for the Arts aiming to conduct the largest tour of Shakespeare in American history. Seven professional theater companies were chosen to tour Shakespeare's plays to all 50 states, conducting educational activities in community middle and high schools across the nation. That first tour reached many communities that have little opportunity to experience live, professional theater. The NEA also partnered with the Department of Defense to present Shakespeare at military bases in 14 states, and produced a comprehensive multimedia toolkit for educators.
Shakespeare for a New Generation
In its second year, the program expanded to involve 21 theater companies and to focus on encouraging the next generation of audiences in the U.S. to attend and appreciate live theater. This new focus, Shakespeare for a New Generation, has carried the program since the start of the 2004-2005 season.
Annually through Shakespeare for a New Generation selected companies receive grants of approximately $25,000 to support performances and educational activities. These funds have enabled theater companies to offer more performances to schools, reach more students, and much more. It has expanded the geographic reach of their touring programs and provided improved access to the arts for underserved schools.
Shakespeare for a New Generation is helping to build future audiences by educating and inspiring students to become informed theatergoers and active participants within the arts and civic organizations that bring distinction to their communities. The prestige of a Shakespeare for a New Generation grant has allowed theater companies to leverage new connections with funders as well as teachers, school boards, and local arts agencies.
Through additional contributions from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice, Shakespeare for a New Generation broadened its reach during the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 seasons. These funds supported highly-qualified theater companies across the country that had partnerships with the juvenile justice system to bring theater activities that focused on Shakespeare for at-risk youth.