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Thursday, 13 October 2011

Festival launches second annual Stratford Challenge

[Press release]  October 12, 2011… Competition offers high-school students a chance to win $10,000 grand prize out of $20,000 purse

The Festival is issuing the Stratford Challenge to all Canadian high-school students, calling on them to recreate the magic of Shakespeare for a chance to win the grand prize of $10,000 out of a total purse of $20,000. After launching last year, the Stratford Challenge has grown, with the Writing Challenge now open to all high-school students across Canada, and a new competition called the Original Works Challenge.

“We are building on last year’s great success by expanding the writing competition to a national level, while also adding a competition for student-written works, which will be national as well,” says donor Felice Sabatino, who spearheaded the Challenge. “With Shakespeare as an imperative cultural foundation for inspiration and innovation, I hope this great initiative will also be a catalyst for our youth’s creative potential, encouraging new, unique and dynamic works.”

“The Stratford Challenge was pure magic last season. The quality of the work submitted and the enthusiasm of the students was inspiring. We are very proud to hold this program for a second year, and delighted that it has grown in scope,” says General Director Antoni Cimolino. “Felice is a true believer in the importance of arts education. His generosity has enabled the Festival to challenge the imagination of students all across Canada in this truly innovative way.”

“The Festival is committed to promoting the arts and classical theatre to young people and it is a goal of ours to have all students in Ontario visit the Festival at least once during their educational careers,” says Artistic Director Des McAnuff. “The Stratford Challenge is another wonderfully creative initiative that helps us to inspire youth. We thank Felice for initiating the program and look forward to seeing the innovative work submitted by students this year.”

The Stratford Challenge has three components for 2012: the Shakespeare Challenge, the Writing Challenge and the new Original Works Challenge.

The Shakespeare Challenge

The 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 on April 23 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.

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 $3,000 and third place $2,000. The fourth and fifth place groups will receive $1,000. Both fourth and fifth-placing groups will also receive a class set of tickets and transportation to a Festival show in 2012.

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

The Writing Challenge

Now being offered to all Canadian high-school students, the Writing Challenge asks young people to write up to 500 words on the topic “Shakespeare and his relevance in the 21st century.” Entries are to be emailed to

The Writing Challenge will be adjudicated by a separate panel of literary experts. The top prize for the writing challenge is $1,000 and 10 tickets to a Festival show and post show chat in 2012. The prize will be awarded in person at the Challenge Finals on April 23 in Stratford.

Applicants may choose their own style and form for their written submission. For further details, please check the Stratford Challenge webpage at

New! Original Works Challenge

This competition will challenge students from across Canada to write an original one act play inspired by a Shakespeare play. Each Original Work submission must be the sole creation of a single playwright. The original work must be a reading length of 20 to 30 minutes. Each original work must be submitted with a cover letter that contains a brief synopsis of the play and includes an account of the correlation between your piece and its classical counterpart. The winner of this competition will receive $2,000 and the opportunity to hear professional actors read their work on April 23.

The entry deadline for all three challenges is midnight on February 29, 2012.

“This challenge sets the highest standards of excellence by providing the rare opportunity to compete on the best stage in the world – Stratford,” says Mr. Sabatino. “This initiative is a dream incubator for future talent and cultural dynamism amongst our most precious resource – our youth.”

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.

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

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s 2011 season runs until November 6, featuring The Merry Wives of Windsor, Camelot, Twelfth Night, The Misanthrope, The Grapes of Wrath, Jesus Christ Superstar and The Homecoming.


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