The Shakespeare Challenge

First aired on Here and Now (24/02/12)

An image of a Shakespeare play being performed (iStock)

There's perhaps no greater way to experience Shakespeare than through seeing a live performance of one of his plays. But not everyone can afford a ticket to the theatre. Well, one theatre company in Toronto has been looking to change this, especially for young people from lower-income neighbourhoods.

Shakespeare in Action is a not-for-profit group founded in 1988 by artistic director Michael Kelly with the mandate to bring the Bard's plays to young people across the province through special programs and productions.

The organization's biggest fundraising project is called The Shakespeare Challenge. Using community members with a passion for theatre, the company puts on a production to raise money for subsidizing theatre tickets for young people. This month, the group took on A Midsummer Night's Dream.

"The members of the community come in to do a play, they rehearse for six Sundays for four hours, they work pretty hard, and they also have to do the fundraising, which is for them, I guess, something that they feel passionate about," Kelly said on CBC's Here and Now recently. "They all certainly care about the work itself, and theatre, and obviously young people getting access to particularly the plays of Shakespeare."

Kelly believes it's important to get kids excited about Shakespeare because the writer's influence on Western society is so immense.

"Shakespeare never goes away. It's always in vogue, and as you see, year to year, there's always something else coming out about Shakespeare, a new movie, a new book...we're always quoting Shakespeare, aren't we?"