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10th Annual San Diego Student Shakespeare Festival Celebrates The Bard

Scenes from Shakespeare performed on multiple outdoor stages in Balboa Park this Saturday

San Diego Student Shakespeare Festival

San Diego Student Shakespeare Festival

KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando recommends checking out the 10th Annual San Diego Student Shakespeare Festival in Balboa Park this Saturday.


The San Diego Student Shakespeare Festival returns to Balboa Park this Saturday. If you love the Bard, this free event will remind you why his work remains so vital after more than four centuries.

Every April for the past nine years the San Diego Shakespeare Society has celebrated the Bard’s birthday with its delightful San Diego Student Shakespeare Festival.

The event brings out hundreds of students from kindergarten to 12th grade to perform scenes from William Shakespeare’s sonnets and plays. Students will perform 10-minute scenes on multiple stages in Balboa Park beginning at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday.

I have had the pleasure of watching this program develop over the past decade and seeing how introducing students at a young age can truly impact their lives. My parents raised me on Shakespeare. From the age of six I went to the summer Shakespeare productions at The Old Globe Theatre and my parents used to play a Shakespeare board game with me because they believed in games where, if I cheated, I would at least learn something.

But because I started reading, seeing, and listening to Shakespeare from an early age, I was never put off by the language of Shakespeare. In fact, I fell in love with the plays and remember spending my hard earned dollars as a pre-teen to buy the four-record full recording of Franco Zeffirelli’s film version of “Romeo and Juliet,” and learning every single line.

Photo caption:

Photo credit: Beth Accomando

The ensemble cast from Carlsbad High at the 2011 San Diego Student Shakespeare Festival in Balboa Park.

The San Diego Shakespeare Society’s mission, as defined on their website, is to “introduce, educate, and encourage the public’s understanding and enjoyment of the works of William Shakespeare.” The objectives of the Society are: “To encourage the study of the life and works of William Shakespeare. To foster and promote an interest in other literature, poetry, art and music through lectures, competitions, performances and the like.”

San Diego Student Shakespeare Festival Highlights

Web movie: Shakespeare Collage Montage

Highlights from teh 5th Annual San Diego Student Shakespeare Festival. April 24, 2010.

And to encourage all this from a young age. So in 2006, the San Diego Shakespeare Society, a nonprofit organization made up of volunteers with a passion for the Bard, launched an ambitious project to go into the schools and encourage teachers to participate in a showcase featuring elementary to high school students performing scenes from Shakespeare.

The Society advocates teaching Shakespeare in the schools because studies have shown that early exposure to Shakespeare can improve academic performance. The Student Shakespeare Festival proves that after 425 years, his plays are still the thing — even with kindergarteners.

This year, the festival will host five stages taking names from Shakespeare's day: The Rose, The Crown, The Swan, The Blackfriars, and The Folly in tribute to one of the Shakespeare Society’s patrons, Walter Munk of La Jolla.

According to Shakespeare Society president Alex Sandie, “There will be 30 schools from throughout San Diego County, including eight elementary schools with 550 students from elementary, middle school, and high school performing.”

For the second year, one of the stages will highlight individual sonnet and monologue presentations. Last year a six year-old dazzled spectators and was named one of the outstanding performers. Seeing kids of this age attack Shakespeare with a fearless passion is one of the chief pleasures of the student festival and proves how important it is to bring Shakespeare into the classroom at an early age.

The Opening Ceremonies and Assembly will begin at 12:30 p.m. in the Plaza de Panama (in prior years the festival kicked off at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion) and the parade will be led by the Helix High School Bagpipe Band.

Sandie added, “This year's Festival will also be dedicated to the Balboa Park Centennial Celebration.”

The event is free but the passion for Shakespeare is priceless. So get thee to Balboa Park!


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Photo of Beth Accomando

Beth Accomando
Arts & Culture Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover arts and culture, from Comic-Con to opera, from pop entertainment to fine art, from zombies to Shakespeare. I am interested in going behind the scenes to explore the creative process; seeing how pop culture reflects social issues; and providing a context for art and entertainment.

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