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Rep will take 'Macbeth' to school

St. Louis middle and high school students will learn modern day lessons via an age-old tale this school year. A tale told not by an idiot, and one signifying much more than sound and fury.

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis ’ production of “Macbeth” will be supported by a $25,000 grant to participate in Shakespeare for a New Generation. Part of a National Endowment for the Arts initiative, Shakespeare for a New Generation uses the masterpieces of William Shakespeare to introduces middle- and high-school students to the power of live theater. Forty nonprofit, professional theater companies received the grants this year.

"It will be a way for students to look at behavioral science, consequences and problem solving in a different light," said Marsha Coplon, director of education for The Rep. "The power of theater in class is a perfect tool. It will be so beneficial."

The Rep is also one of six companies that will receive $10,000 through a partnership with theCoordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention , which organizes federal programs for at-risk youth among multiple federal agencies.

The additional grant will allow The Rep to expand the reach of its Shakespeare for a New Generation activities to youth who are involved with the juvenile justice system.

Coplon hopes lessons from Shakespeare will give students an educated insight on the consequences of situations that may arise during a transitional time like high school.

"This program is a safe way for students to explore what is wonderfully right and wonderfully wrong in modern situations," Coplon said. "Middle and high school students make these decisions everyday."

The Rep will present four student matinee productions of Macbeth and will provide accompanying educational activities to more than 25 schools. It will work with Prison Performing Arts on an Artist Residency program with incarcerated youth.

Coplon feels Macbeth is a play students can relate to the most. She hopes that students will walk away from the experience realizing that it is not acceptable to stab someone in the back--literally or figuratively.

"By using these ideas from the play, students will learn what is right and wrong," she said.

Managed by Arts Midwest, the program's live performances and educational activities have reached more than 1.5 million students since the program began in 2003. More than 80 American theater companies have taken part in the NEA's Shakespeare program, performing at 4,000 schools in 2,500 communities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

For Coplon, Shakespeare's works may be old, but they are certainly socially potent.

"Shakespeare was pretty astute," she said.

Patrick Sullivan, a student at the University of Kentucky, is a Beacon intern.

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon.

Patrick Sullivan
Patrick Sullivan was a student at the University of Kentucky and an intern for the STL Beacon in Fall 2010