With ‘Much Ado,’ curtain rises on CSF’s third anti-violence school tour

March 7, 2014

Following on the heels of its nationally recognized anti-violence school tours based on “The Tempest” and “Twelfth Night,” the Colorado Shakespeare Festival has hit the road this spring with a new production of “Much Ado About Nothing.” 

The highly praised program, co-created with the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence at the University of Colorado Boulder, brings abridged productions of Shakespeare’s plays into schools to stimulate discussion about the “cycle of violence.” More than 38,000 Colorado school children have participated in the program, which was launched in 2011. 

Professional actors perform the play and lead students in small-group exercises exploring issues raised, such as gossip and bullying. Actors receive training through the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence and, among other things, educate students about Safe2Tell, an anonymous tip line to report bullying. 

The new production focuses on the potential damage caused by gossip and the power of language, says Amanda Giguere, director of outreach for the festival.

In the play, Beatrice and Benedick are "frenemies" known for their constant verbal sparring. Their friends play a prank on them by gossiping within earshot about their mutual affection. In the meantime, the villain Don John fabricates a nasty rumor about Hero's infidelity, which results in her public humiliation on her wedding day. 

“Gossip and rumors can quickly damage a reputation and can have a negative impact on a person’s self-esteem,” Giguere says. “This play explores the power of words. When does a ‘merry war’ turn hostile? When does teasing go too far? What kind of damage can rumors cause? It’s a perfect vehicle for engaging students with questions about the cycle of violence, and the negative impact gossip can have on a school climate.” 

Some 26 percent of high-school students report that other students have told lies or spread rumors about them, according to Beverly Kingston, director of the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence.

“Every day kids are faced with difficult issues like gossiping and spreading rumors,” she says. “This play brings these issues to life and empowers students to reflect on these topics and see how they can make better choices.” 

Whether they are exploring rumormongering, bullying or other harmful behaviors, one key goal of the plays and workshops is to help students feel empowered. 

 “One of the best things schools can do is to promote a positive school climate where students feel physically and emotionally safe,” Kingston says. “School climate is continuously created in every single interaction. This play is a tangible action toward building a positive school climate.”

 

CSF’s anti-violence production of “Much Ado About Nothing” is available for booking. For more information email csfedout@colorado.edu, call 303-492-1973 or visit coloradoshakes.org/education/csf-schools.

 

The current tour began Feb. 11 and remaining tour dates include: 

Feb. 25: St. Bernadette Catholic School and Mountain Phoenix Community School (Lakewood/Wheat Ridge)

Feb. 26: OLLI West and Denver Montclair International (Denver)

Feb. 27: Heatherwood Elementary (Gunbarrel)

Feb. 28: Brady High (Lakewood) and Jefferson Academy Elementary (Broomfield)

March 4: Ouray School

March 5: Ridgway Schools

March 7: Cherokee Trail High (Aurora) and CU-Boulder

March 14: Boulder Country Day

March 18: Endeavor Academy (Centennial)

March 20: Lincoln Academy Charter (Arvada)

March 21: McGlone Elementary (Denver)

April 1: Estes Park Schools

April 2: Louisville Middle School

April 3: Stein Elementary (Lakewood)

April 4: Estes Park Schools

April 8: Colfax Elementary (Denver) and East Elementary (Littleton)

April 9: Niwot Elementary

April 10: Bromwell Elementary and Columbian Elementary (Denver)

April 11: Rocky Mountain Elementary (Longmont) and Longmont Estates Elementary (Longmont)