The emergence of guns, gangs and violence in Toronto has prompted calls for more creative programming that fosters positive, life affirming opportunities for young people. Shakespeare Fight Club facilitates a positive engagement with notions of conflict and violence for youth at risk.
Shakespeare in action would like to acknowledge the generous support of TELUS, Canada Council for the Arts, and Intact Insurance, our sponsors for the Shakespeare Fight Club Program. The Shakespeare Fight Club Program is conducted in partnership with the Yonge Street Mission, and other local community hubs.
Over eight rigorous weeks in 2009, we undertook an innovative new program in practical performance training, based in theories of embodiment. We blended stage combat, dance choreography and Shakespearean scene study with urban art forms such as break-dancing and hip hop, culminating in a series of public performances in the Jane-Finch neighbourhood. The program was led by an expert team of theatre professionals.
The program is based on the premise that young people at risk need safe creative spaces that are stimulating, challenging and thought provoking. We identify and address root causes of violence, and create a performance that seeks to positively reinforce the lives of our young participants, and to engender pride in the community.
The eight-week creative process included:
- An introduction to industry techniques (Weeks 1 and 2). Participants, under the tutelage of one of our master fight directors will learn the basics of stage combat. Participants learn everything from punches, kicks, falling, throwing, rolling, to sword defenses and the employment of other theatrical weapons. These techniques will be practically taught and crafted into immediate choreography. Led by Artistic Director, Michael Kelly, our team of actor/teachers will work with the participants to explore violence and conflict in scenes from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Titus Andronicus, Henry V, Macbeth and Hamlet.
- Fusion of community art forms (weeks 3 and 4). We take the urban art forms of break dancing, extreme skateboarding, krumping and hip hop, and amalgamate them with the techniques learned in Stage One. By using forms of expression familiar to young participants, we work to create a world that better reflects the participants’ community and allow them to bring their personal voice to the process of creation.
- Intensive performance development (Weeks 5 – 7). Participants will experience the thrilling and empowering process of creating, rehearsing and staging a piece of work collaboratively created by the entire group. Participants will be asked to use the skills and artistic discoveries of the earlier phases of development to generate a performance that speaks to their experience of conflict and which posits creative alternatives to violence. The work will use Shakespeare as its stimulus, and will be created by the participants under the guidance of the artistic team.
- Public Performances (Week 8). A series of performances for the community.
For more information on our Shakespeare Fight Club, please send us an e-mail, or call (416) 703-4881.