BE NOT AFRAID OF GREATNESS
We are Chicago Youth Shakespeare [CYS]: dedicated to putting Shakespeare’s timeless works into the hands of 21st-century teenagers. CYS programs inspire, empower, and connect students across Chicagoland to Shakespeare and to each other. CYS is committed to providing a safe space for students of all backgrounds, and to fostering a diverse community of creative young artists and compassionate global citizens.
Our Core Values
Shakespeare for all—but especially teenagers
Shakespeare’s characters are spontaneous, impulsive, fickle, and rebellious – much like a modern teenager. The conflicts they face are the same conflicts young people face four centuries later: making tough choices, navigating relationships, challenging authority, and determining one's own future. Discovering Shakespeare through performance engages students actively and collaboratively, connecting them physically, intellectually, and emotionally to the text and to each other. By embodying Shakespeare’s characters, students make each line of dialogue, each story their own, discovering a shared context for many of the questions and struggles they face as young adults. CYS students gain an appreciation for the power of language, and a greater awareness of how their own words and actions impact others, giving them the skills and confidence to realize their potential as future artists, thinkers, innovators, and life-long learners.
History and Impact
Chicago Youth Shakespeare was established in March of 2013 by its Founding Artistic Director, Manon Spadaro, a drama teacher with a vision to share the life-changing experience of learning Shakespeare through performance with teenagers beyond her classroom. CYS began with just four board members and a Youth Advisory Council made up of high school students dedicated to helping CYS create performance-based Shakespeare programs that would inspire, empower, and unite teenagers across the Chicagoland area.
In just over three years, CYS programs have reached over 4000 students from more than 60 different public, private, and parochial schools in the Chicago area. CYS has granted over $50,000 in need-based program scholarships, helped students raise more than $5,000 to support arts programming in public schools, and continues to bring free Shakespeare performances to hundreds of new students each year.
Empowerment and Inspiration
CYS programs are student-centered and student-driven, giving young people the tools to take ownership over the learning process. Our students make artistic choices together as they discover how to engage with Shakespeare in ways that resonate most with them. We encourage students to collaborate, think outside the box, jump at opportunities, and take the lead.
CYS serves our mission through three central programs: