Shakespeare in Action

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Black and white cartoon of William Shakespeare.
Shakespeare in Action's logo.

Shakespeare in Action is a Toronto-based, multi-racial Shakespearean theatre company for young audiences. The company aspires to enhance the arts and education by bringing Shakespeare's plays to children and students across Toronto.[1] Founded in 1988 by Artistic Director Michael Kelly, Shakespeare in Action offers a wide variety of programming for students, teachers and the community, including in-class workshops, mainstage productions, summer programs and more. In 2009 the company became the Artist Company in Residence at Toronto's Central Commerce Collegiate Institute.[2] The company also partners with TD Bank and the Toronto Public Library to produce the Shakespeare for Kids Library Club, a free program where children learn how to act out Shakespeare's plays themselves.[3]

Mandate and History[edit]

Shakespeare in Action seeks to inspire audiences of all ages, and believes that Shakespeare can and should be accessible to everyone, regardless of age, race, education or sociology-economic background. The acting company is diverse and multi-racial.[4]

The company focuses on demystifying Shakespeare’s language by the characters in today’s world and encouraging students to attach themselves to the stories within the play. The company’s main stage productions use Shakespeare’s original text, and their workshops and youth programs help students to work through the text, often through group performance, inspiring them to think about the historical background of the plays and the process behind production.[5] The company's workshops and other programmed use Shakespeare's language as an opportunity for students to learn by doing.[6]

Shakespeare in Action is a non-profit organization registered with the Canadian Revenue Agency. They operate under the jurisdiction of the Canadian Actors' Equity Association, hiring only professional actors, and have memberships with many professional organizations including the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres, the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts and Theatre Ontario.[7]

Shakespeare in Action was founded in 1988 by Michael Kelly, a classically trained actor who has worked in Canada and the United States teaching Shakespeare.[8] In 1991, the company performed for young offenders in prison, and from 1993-1996 toured productions of Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream to schools in the Greater Toronto Area.[9] In 1996, they began producing mainstage productions, starting with Romeo and Juliet. In 1999, they traveled to New Zealand to work with the National Youth Drama School and Shakespeare Globe Centre. In 2006, they partnered with the Toronto Public Library to create the Shakespeare for Kids Library Club. Over the past few years, the company has expanded its programming and has become the Artist Company in Residence at Central Commerce Collegiate Institute just west of downtown Toronto. Shakespeare in Action has served over 500,000 audience members in its 22 years.[10]

Artistic Director[edit]

Michael Kelly is the founder and artistic director of Shakespeare in Action. He is an actor, director, producer, teacher, and arts educator who has directed many contemporary and Shakespearean plays and taught master classes for The Stratford Festival, the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival and Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London. Michael is a part-time member of the Theatre Faculty at York University.[11] He has also taught acting at George Brown College, Randolph Academy for the Arts, and the National Youth Drama School in New Zealand.[12]


  1. ^ Toronto Parents' Guide "Shakespeare in Action", Toronto Parents' Guide, Toronto, 23 January 2008. Retrieved on 2010-10-20.
  2. ^ Toronto District School Board "Central Commerce Collegiate", Toronto District School Board, Toronto. Retrieved on 2010-10-20.
  3. ^ Toronto Public Library "TD Shakespeare for Kids", Toronto Public Library, Toronto. Retrieved on 2010-10-20.
  4. ^ Shakespeare in Action "Company History", Shakespeare in Action, Toronto. Retrieved on 2011-01-26.
  5. ^ Briskness, Annmarie. "Empowering kids with Shakespeare," The Village Gleaner, 2002.
  6. ^ Henry, Bill. "Demystifying the Bard," The Sun Times, 1999.
  7. ^ "Professional Association of Canadian Theatres - Who's Who". Retrieved 2011-01-26. 
  8. ^ Brissenden, Annemarie. "Empowering kids with Shakespeare," The Village Gleaner, 2002.
  9. ^ Shakespeare in Action "Company History", Shakespeare in Action, Toronto. Retrieved on 2011-01-26.
  10. ^ Shakespeare in Action "Company History", Shakespeare in Action, Toronto. Retrieved on 2011-01-26.
  11. ^ York University "Theatre Faculty", York University, Toronto. Retrieved on 2011-01-26.
  12. ^ Avenue Road Arts School "Splash! Winter '99", [Avenue Road Arts School], Toronto. Retrieved on 2011-01-26.