Shakesperience at Rider University

Born in the Yvonne Theatre at Rider University in May 2007, Shakesperience at Rider is Shakespeare festival for middle and high school students that has become a meaningful rite of spring for diverse students and their teachers who enjoy the fun and rigor of working with Rider faculty, each other, and Shakespeare. Our university-school partnership creates opportunities for deep, performance-based learning through preparation and performance of festival pieces as well as participation in festival workshops.

Founded at Rider University and the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey with seed money from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation through the esteemed Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, Shakesperience is modeled on the Folger’s long-standing week-long student Shakespeare festivals in the greater DC area. The premise of the festival is that the best way to learn is through hands-on engagement—to perform Shakespeare is to create meaning from his work. Not a drama competition, the all-day festival features collaborations and performances among and between a variety of students throughout New Jersey and from across the region including home-schooled and charter school students, Camden Performing Arts High School, Clearview Regional High School, Cumberland Regional High School, Kinnelon High School, The Pennington School, Robbinsville High School, Rosa International Middle School, Torah Academy of Bergen County, Woodglen Middle School.

Shakesperience at Rider has evolved to include our own unique spin on the Folger model of all-day performances with workshop rounds for participants before performances. Thanks to our festival teachers and faculty, the workshops give participants some new knowledge and skills as well as a chance to meet students from other schools.

Each group of students who participate in the festival has prepared to perform one scene or scenes from any of Shakespeare’s plays. Time on stage is between 15 to 25 minutes. Performances may omit passages from Shakespeare text but may not adapt text in any way, no modern language, no text mash-ups or reinventions. Performances may play with context and use brief contemporary English “bridges.” Performers limit reliance on costumes, props, and technical support. If using music, it will be performed live. To get a feel for Rider’s annual Shakespeare festival, you may access a YouTube clip that features students, teachers, and university faculty participating in and talking about Shakesperience@Rider at:

Professor Kathleen Pierce, Director