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A school-sponsored trip to Shakespeare’s Globe, in 2008 inspired Shakespeare in the City. Middle School English teacher Martha Douglas-Osmundson witnessed Hamlet performed by over 400 children and imagined staging such a production back home in Providence. She met with Julia Eells, who gave her wholehearted support, and Martha knew her students would be enthusiastic about the challenge.

Martha set about contacting every school principal in the city and asking if they wanted their school to be involved. Her impassioned request was met with confusion and apprehension at first, but soon teachers from 10 schools were convinced to take the chance. Martha cut the script down to a one-hour running time, the teachers rehearsed their respective scenes with their student acting companies, and soon it was time for the one and only group rehearsal on Lincoln’s stage. Hamlet was performed with more than 120 students that year, and it was a phenomenal success. Students from all over the city met each other and performed one of the greatest plays ever written. They played Frisbee and turned cartwheels on Lincoln’s lawn, visited in each other’s ‘green rooms,’ and generally reveled in the uniqueness of the evening.

Each school signed up again for the 2010 production of Romeo and Juliet, but – by now – word had gotten out! Teachers were now contacting Martha, a lovely change from the earlier days when she tried so hard to convince people that this idea could work. In addition to school teachers, Steve Kidd, education director of the GAMM Theatre, heard about the success of Shakespeare in the City, and he contacted Martha to see about how he might get involved. Martha and Steve created a company building session for all of the students, which takes place immediately before the group rehearsal. This has proved to be an exciting way for the students to become better acquainted, and the partnership has continued. 

Romeo and Juliet found nearly 200 Providence students from 16 city schools on Lincoln’s stage in 2010. In 2011, A Midsummer Night’s Dream was such a hit, Shakespeare in the City had a record 18 schools signed up to perform Macbeth in 2012.  Othello in 2013 found 20 schools represented on our stage and record crowds in the house.  Between Macbeth and Othello, something wonderful happened behind the scenes of Shakespeare in the City.  Martha was nominated for and won a prestigious Pell Award: the Charles Sullivan Award for Distinguished Service in the Arts.  On June 10, a gala awards ceremony was held at Trinity Repertory Theatre and the newly refurbished Providence Public Library.  Head of school Julia Eells introduced Martha, who mentioned Lincoln several times in her acceptance speech.  Because, after all, Shakespeare in the City will always be “presented by” Lincoln School, even if it does move to its new home at the famous Veterans Memorial Auditorium.  But that’s another story!

Ms. D-O's (as her students call her) Grade 8 English classes rehearse their scenes and plan some of the welcoming activities of the rehearsal day. This uniquely Lincoln program is truly a labor of love for this veteran teacher. As she says, “It provides an extraordinary experience for Lincoln students, which is what it’s all about.” Martha urges you to read this handful of the many testimonials she has received since the first show if you want to know more!

Martha urges you to read this handful of the many testimonials she has received since the first show if you want to know more!provides an extraordinary experience for Lincoln students, which is what it’s all about.”

        Providence teacher: “It was a lovely experience--and everyone we encountered at Lincoln was generous, enthused and encouraging.  Parents seemed positively thrilled.”

        Lincoln School parent: “I was so proud of our kids--not just Lincoln's, but Providence's.”

        Lincoln grandparent: “That show was GREAT!   I could go again tonight. You could tell that the kids were having as much fun as the audience.”

Lincoln parent: “Last night was amazing.  I was absolutely blown away by the diversity, talent, and creativity.”

        Lincoln administrator: “Yesterday's performance was fantastic! It was so exciting and energizing to see students from such a variety of schools, both public and private, with such a range of ages and grades --- all contributing equally to a performance with such rich variety of directorial styles and visions. This was a highlight of the year! We are all so fortunate that you have made this happen!”

        Lincoln parent: “It was incredible!!! I absolutely loved it and what an amazing way to bring the Providence community together!”

        Providence teacher: “My favorite part of this project was seeing the kids really performing Shakespeare- understanding it, feeling it, getting it, and being excited about it.  It was also really valuable for me to see my students really feel like they could hold their own with students from some of the finest schools in the city - this was a cross-cultural experience for them.” 

Pictures from 2012 Macbeth, taken by Glenn Osmundson

 

 

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