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OSF receives NEA educational grants

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival has been selected to participate in the 2009-10 "Shakespeare for a New Generation" program, a major initiative sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts in cooperation with Arts Midwest. OSF is among 37 theater companies to receive funding.

OSF received $25,000 for 212 performances of four Shakespeare plays, plus related classroom curricula and 73 actor workshops, post-show discussions, tours, prologues and teacher training classes for 800 students in 45 Oregon and California schools. The funding deepens and broadens OSF's work with elementary, middle and high school students who are participating in School Visit Partnerships, the Bowmer Project for Student Playgoers and the Ashland Schools Project.

The participating schools are in 33 communities in Oregon and four communities in Siskiyou County, Calif. The four Shakespeare plays that students will attend are "Much Ado About Nothing," "All's Well That Ends Well," "Henry VIII" (2009) and "Hamlet" (2010).

While OSF has always had a strong education department with far-reaching educational programming, continuing trends in the field of education have affected student attendance at the theater. This grant will help OSF offer discounted performances to student groups; expand the distribution of theater education materials to teachers; encourage participation by teachers in OSF's professional development programs; reduce program fees for schools; and identify new and increased private support for education.

Schools are seated with general audiences for all 11 main stage productions; OSF has no student-only performances. A fundamental goal is preparing every student to understand and enjoy the play he or she is seeing. Educational staff teaches students what to expect in the theater and what is expected. In 2008, nearly 60 percent of visiting students also attended an OSF education event. Actors often comment on attentive, engaged and well-informed student groups.

Fifteen, or two-thirds, of the festival's education programs focus on students and teachers. These 15 programs reach out to culturally, economically and geographically diverse schools from across the western United States. Student attendance was 49,881 for the 2008 season — February through October 2008. The touring School Visit Program reached another 73,875 students in four states — California, Oregon, Washington and Kansas — in 2008, bringing the total number of students served by OSF to 123,756 for the year.

To enhance the educational impact of "Shakespeare for a New Generation," the NEA also has developed free, multimedia educational resource kits. To date, more than 65,000 toolkits have been distributed to classroom teachers. Included in the kits are a teacher's guide with lesson plans, a recitation contest guide, a Fun with Shakespeare brochure with word games and trivia, a timeline poster, a CD and two educational DVDs. These resources can be ordered free of charge at shakespeareinamericancommunities.org.

The NEA is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established; bringing the arts to all Americans; and providing leadership in arts education. Established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, the arts endowment is the nation's largest annual funder of the arts, bringing great art to all 50 states, including rural areas, inner cities and military bases. Visit arts.gov.

OSF receives NEA educational grants