Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival’s 2017 WillPower Tour Unlocks the Power of Shakespeare for 13,500 Students

Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival’s WillPower production of Romeo and Juliet toured for 33 days, traveled 2,771 miles, and performed for 13,500 students.

The tour includes a professionally directed 80-minute production with set and costumes, trained actor-teachers, and quality curriculum through workshops and other sessions with the students

Thanks to funding from Harry C. Trexler Trust and the National Endowment for the Arts, PSF was able to provide the tour free of cost to several schools in the Lehigh Valley and in Reading, and the 2017 tour was the first to reach all seven middle and high schools in the Allentown School District.

From its inception in 2000, WillPower has served more than 187,000 students from 185 schools in New Jersey, Delaware, and 40 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.

The first tour launched under the direction of Festival founder Gerard J. Schubert O.S.F.S, whose aim was to dispel the “Shakesfear” so often experienced by students confronted with Shakespeare’s exquisite—but sometimes challenging—language when first introduced in a textbook. Schubert maintained that the best way to introduce students is through live performance. A local student affirms, “It was easy to understand. Typically when you think ‘Shakespeare’ you think of the difficult language, but watching Shakespeare is very different and fun.”  An Allentown student agrees, “I never knew the full story of Romeo and Juliet and I learned it in the best way possible.”

“For students whose schools book the tour year after year, we often hear how our visit is the highlight of their year,” says Jill Arington, PSF’s education director. “This feedback speaks to the notion that Shakespeare’s plays were designed to be seen and heard, rather than read. We are proud to complement the fine work begun by classroom teachers by bringing live performance to students right in their school auditoriums.”

For the teachers who book the tour, WillPower is an essential component of introducing their students to Shakespeare.  A Schuylkill County teacher writes, "When I looked over at a freshman in tears at the end of the performance, I was reaffirmed in my decision (to book the tour). The Bard's ability to reach kids is life-changing. Thanks, WillPower.”

The 2018 WillPower Tour, and details on booking the tour, will be announced in the coming months.

Upcoming educational opportunities for students at PSF
Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival’s 10th Annual High School Shakespeare Competition, is scheduled for Saturday, March 3rd 2018 on the Center Valley Campus of DeSales University. The Competition provides multiple performance opportunities for students, direct evaluation of each performance by actors and teaching artists from New York and Philadelphia, and observation of peer and university performances. Participants will also have the opportunity to engage in workshops and panel discussions with professional artists. DeSales University will award a total of $15,000 in scholarships to outstanding participants. All high school-aged students in public, private, or home school are eligible to participate. Registration forms and other information can be found at www.pashakespeare.org/competition.

About PSF’s WillPower Tour
Fully titled the Linny Fowler WillPower Tour in honor of an endowment gift by its namesake, Marlene “Linny” Fowler, WillPower is the centerpiece of Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival's educational programming. Now in its 18th year, WillPower has served more than 187,000 students at 185 schools and has a well-established reputation for excellence. For the tenth year, PSF was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in partnership with ArtsMidwest, which has helped WillPower log 12,000+ miles and serve 40 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. The Shakespeare in American Communities program will also enable PSF to remove cost and transportations barriers for several local school groups to attend its summer 2018 productions. The National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest presents Shakespeare in American Communities. Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival is one of 40 professional theater companies selected to participate in bringing the finest productions of Shakespeare to middle- and high-school students across the United States.