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Monday, 4 October 2010

Festival launches Stratford Challenge for Ontario students


Grand prize of $10,000 for performance competition
Total purse of $17,500

For youth, ‘All the world’s a stage’

October 4, 2010… Attention Ontario high-school students: bring the greatness of Shakespeare to life! The Stratford Shakespeare Festival is launching a huge performance contest called the Stratford Challenge, with the first ever competition focusing on the works of Shakespeare. Enter the Stratford Shakespeare Challenge and you could win the grand prize of $10,000 out of a total purse of $17,500.

It’s part of a new initiative to promote the performing arts amongst students, made possible by donor Felice Sabatino, who plans to expand the Stratford Challenge in coming years to incorporate other genres, such as musicals and new works.

“Felice is a very civic-minded person who has been a supporter of the Festival for some time. As an entrepreneur and philanthropist, he is filled with ideas, one of which he brought to us last year – a performing arts festival for students,” says General Director Antoni Cimolino. “He and I had many delightful conversations culminating in this wonderful Stratford Challenge. We are very grateful for his enthusiastic interest in coming to us with the concept for this competition and the generous seed money to get it off the ground.”

“The Stratford Shakespeare Festival, the most significant classical theatre company in North America, is leading the way in enriching arts education,” says Mr. Sabatino, who has produced other world-class challenges. “The Stratford Challenge is intended to further that enrichment, by inspiring and nurturing the theatre artists of tomorrow and reaching out to the next generation of theatregoers. It’s my hope that the $10,000 prize – the largest prize being offered to performing arts students – will be a great incentive and will take kids beyond watching theatre to actually creating it. This approach allows interaction with other students and with the playwright, which can’t be realized any other way. Preparation for a performance of this caliber involves a different kind of teamwork than is usually experienced at school, which I believe will help students visualize and perform on a bigger stage.”

“The Stratford Challenge is another initiative we are launching to introduce more and more students to Shakespeare and Stratford,” says Artistic Director Des McAnuff. “In 2009, we launched a new education outreach project to ensure that every student in Ontario has the opportunity to see a production at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival at least once in their academic career. These are just two of the many educational programs we offer in Stratford.”

The Stratford Shakespeare Challenge asks high school students in Ontario to produce a 10-minute scene from Shakespeare, record it and send it off to the Festival, where a panel of current and former Festival artists will review the entries and select five finalists.

These five groups will be invited to Stratford to produce their scene on the stage of the Festival’s Studio Theatre, where a different panel of current and former Festival artists and other experts will adjudicate, provide feedback and select the winners.

“Imagine the incredible experience of coming to this beautiful town and performing in the same environment as the magnificent Christopher Plummer – this is inspiration that will endure for a lifetime,” says Mr. Sabatino.

The first-place team will receive $10,000 – to be shared by the school and the students involved in the scene. The remaining prizes go directly to the students, to be split amongst members of the teams. Second place will receive $2,500 and third place $1,500. The fourth- and fifth-placing groups will receive $1,000 each.

“It is my hope that students will spend their winnings enriching their arts education,” says Mr. Sabatino.

Students are also encouraged to submit a two-minute trailer for their video to post on the Festival’s social media pages.

Stratford Writing Challenge

In addition there will be a Stratford Writing Challenge to broaden the reach of the competition to students interested in other creative disciplines. Entrants for this competition will be asked to write 500 words on “Why Shakespeare?” The winner will receive $1,500. Full details are online.

“The writing competition is a way of reaching out to students interested in other aspects of the creative disciplines and encouraging intellectual and spiritual reflection,” says Mr. Sabatino. “I hope that in the future, we will be able to reach out even further by offering challenges in musical theatre, new work and soliloquies and I would love to see the project expand nationally and internationally. It is my hope that directors, writers and others will gain a fuller perspective and appreciation for the art through the various aspects of this competition.”

The Stratford Challenge is open to Ontario students in Grades 9 through 12. They are asked to form teams to produce a scene of no more than 10 minutes in length from one of Shakespeare’s works. Teams will record their scene on a DVD and submit it to the Festival by February 28, 2011. The deadline for the essay competition is the same. Full details can be found online at

It is hoped that the competition will expand beyond Ontario in future years.

“The Stratford Challenge is a great way to get students excited about Shakespeare’s work,” says Mr. Cimolino. “I was a high-school student when I first visited the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and it was a production of Love’s Labour’s Lost that inspired me to pursue a career in classical theatre.

“Our Artistic Director Des McAnuff and many members of our company were similarly inspired by Stratford productions and we want to be sure to reach out to students to ensure they have the same opportunity to experience the work of the world’s greatest playwright.”

The Festival currently welcomes between 60,000 and 90,000 students each year. Through this challenge and other education programs, it is striving to surpass 120,000 annually.

“We really hope to encourage young people to develop a meaningful and lasting relationship with Shakespeare,” says Mr. McAnuff. “This challenge has the potential to spark an interest with students today and get them as excited about these plays as we are.

“Young people are our future. To capture their imaginations; to introduce them to a place where they will find insight, illumination and inspiration; to open the doors of their hearts and minds and souls to possibilities they might not otherwise perceive – this is one of our very highest priorities.”

For information on visiting the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and using its education programs, visit: where you will find links for students and teachers.

“This competition is a catalyst, encouraging greater interaction and engagement with the arts. It will spur future attendance and interest in all arts and will continue to reinforce Stratford as a leader in its field, as visionaries on stage and beyond,” says Mr. Sabatino. “This Challenge represents the embryonic greatness of the future.”

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s 2010 season runs until November 6, featuring As You Like It; Kiss Me, Kate; Dangerous Liaisons; Evita; and Peter Pan.


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