Mandate & History
Shakespeare in Action was established in 1988 by Artistic Director, Michael Kelly. We continue to bring Shakespeare to young people across Ontario through innovative programs and critically acclaimed theatre productions.
Shakespeare in Action is a diverse theatre company that aspires to enhance the arts and education through exploring and performing Shakespeare’s plays. We are dedicated to fostering literacy, enhancing creativity and promoting speech arts by making the language and stories of Shakespeare accessible and relevant to young audiences, their families, and the community. Shakespeare in Action seeks to inspire audiences of all ages to discover Shakespeare’s universal truths in our everyday world, showing the influence classical theatre has within our communities. We accomplish this by:
- Presenting fresh Canadian interpretations of Shakespeare and other classical and contemporary stories that are relevant to young audiences and their families and the community;
- Promoting a multi-cultural company of interdisciplinary artists that is engaged with and reflects our diverse community; AND
- Creating the audience of the future through our productions, projects and outreach programs.
Shakespeare in Action is a not-for-profit organization registered with the Canadian Revenue Agency: Charity Registration Number: 12721 1571 RR0001
Shakespeare in Action operates under the jurisdiction of the Canadian Actors Equity Association, and is proudly a member of many professional organizations including TAPA and Theatre Ontario.
- 1988 – BARD COMES ALIVE IN METRO-CLASSROOMS: Kids are loving it
- “The program is innovative, improvisational, flexible” -Bill Taylor, The Toronto Star.
- 1991 – SHAKESPEARE MODERNIZED FOR NEW AUDIENCES: Impacts upon young offenders.
- “Smart actors have found a way to teach Shakespeare with action” -Eric Malling, W5.
- 1993 SHAKESPEARE GOES TO KINDERGARTEN: A program for K-6.
- “At schools all across Southern Ontario something special is happening. Shakespeare is coming to class in a way he never did before.” -Rita Tonnelli Global TV, Kids Beat.
- 1994 DEMYSTIFYING THE BARD: Learn Shakespeare by doing Shakespeare.
- “Student actors are cracking the language barrier to see how he uses it to address important human questions” -Bill Henry, The Sun Times.
- 1996 MAIN STAGE PROGRAM SIA: Innovative production of Romeo & Juliet.
- “Why has this company been kept away from the public for so long when they do such interesting work?’’ -Geoff Chapman, The Toronto Star.
- 1997 TEACHING SHAKESPEARE SUMMER INSTITUTE: Established at York University.
- “I gained new strategies and maybe even more important, renewed enthusiasm for teaching Shakespeare. Thank you”. -Denise Graves, Teacher.
- 1998 LEARNING TO LOVE SHAKESPEARE: Interesting Canadians we’re glad we’ve met
- “Michael Kelly, founder of Toronto’s Shakespeare in Action, believes that by experiencing Shakespeare kids learn some history while they design sets and costumes, some music while they figure out how to accompany their own performance and a whole lot of self-confidence when they realize they’ve tackled a playwright who has been known to terrify teachers.” -Cate Cochran, Canadian Living Magazine
- 1999 INTERNATIONAL SUCCESS DOWN UNDER: Behold, a changed Bard
- “Learning about the Bard was never this much fun. Michael Kelly uses repetition, encouragement, pace and limitless energy, the end result after half an hour’s intensive workout: well, dramatic. This is how the director of Canadian-based Shakespeare in Action has passed his love of Shakespeare onto thousands of people around the world.” -Lynn Freeman The Herald, NZ
- 2000 SHAKESPEARE FOR KIDZ SUMMER PROGRAM: Summer program for children from 7-12
- Critically acclaimed “innovative and fun” by C.B.C. As It Happens. “Your camp topped the charts, Jessie rated it 110 out of 100” -Marie Sheppard, Parent C.B.C
- 2001 A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM: Hit production critically acclaimed.
- “A combination of clever staging and an inventive use of shadow play and puppets make it all possible.” -Richard Ouzounian,The Toronto Star
- 2002 EMPOWERING KIDS WITH SHAKESPEARE: Experiencing the creative process.
- “Shakespeare is ‘a great point of departure that crosses over to dance, history, art and music, kids begin to fall in love with the language,’ says Kelly, ‘Romantic, invigorating, its empowering for kids of any age’” -Annemarie Brissenden, The Village Gleaner, Toronto
- 2004 ARTISTS & THE COMMUNITY: SIA launches innovative program for schools, parents and volunteers that involves the whole school from kindergarten to grade six in the production of a Shakespeare play.
- “This production of The Tempest gave all the children at Givins/Shaw a chance to participate regardless of background and religion.” -Karen Mackenna, Parent.
- 2007 TD SHAKESPEARE FOR KIDS LIBRARY CLUB: in Association with Toronto Public Libraries. Children participate in a six-week workshop exploring the language of Shakespeare. “The kids really enjoyed the library program. It really helped our son to be more literate and increased his speech arts.” -Beth Gibson, Parent.
- 2008 MASK & MADNESS IN MACBETH: “The eye catching production shines a gaudy and sometimes revealing new light on Macbeth” -Jon Caplan, Now Magazine.
- 2009 SUDDENLY SHAKESPEARE: Inaugural Shakespeare Family Series production at Lillian H. Smith Library.
- 2009 A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM: remounted production of our celebrated production.
- 2009 Shakespeare in Action becomes an Artist Company in Residence at Central Toronto Academy (CTA) in the Toronto District School Board.
- 2011 THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK: Mainstage production at JCC Miles Nadal Theatre.
- 2012 THE FIRST ANNUAL SHAKESPEARE CHALLENGE: a fundraiser involving members of the non-theatre community.
- 2012 ROMEO AND JULIET: Mainstage production at CTA.
- 2014 HAMLET: Mainstage production at CTA.
- 2014/15 SHAKESPEARE MEETS HIP HOP: SIA begins touring innovative new program.
- 2016 Shakespeare in Action leaves Central Toronto Academy and settles in our new home at Yonge & Wellesley.