For several years, Cal Shakes’ New Works/New Communities (NW/NC) program has brought Shakespeare workshops to the classrooms of Alameda County Juvenile Hall. Earlier this month the NW/NC staff held a contest among the Cal Shakes company to name this expanding program; the winner, courtesy of Technical Director Dave Nowakowski, is Creative Risk.
Over the last six months the residency program has grown exponentially: We doubled the number of facilities that we serve, tripled our teaching artist pool, and created a partnership with the Alameda County Office of Education’s charter school program director. Earlier this summer, we held our first residency at Thunder Road, a drug and alcohol treatment center in Oakland for teens. This inaugural residency was taught by a teaching artist new to us, Kharyshi Wiginton; the theme of the core curriculum was “integrity”.
As the boys and girls of Thunder Road are kept separated, each group was assigned separate pieces: The boys focused on monologues spoken by King Henry and Prince Hal in Henry VI, Part 1, while the girls focused on Act I, Scene 1 of King Lear. At the start of the residency, the kids defined “integrity” as “doing the right thing, even when no one is looking.” Creative Risk’s goal was to expand that definition, drawing comparisons from the scripts used and relating them to real-life scenarios. The kids took to the exercises greatly, with 72 percent of them rating the class as “Excellent,” and 67 percent describing it as “Interesting”. When asked, “If you forgot everything [from the class] except one thing, what would that one thing be?,” answers included “all the acting and fun activities that we did these past few weeks,” “Life isn’t about rushing to over achieve, it’s about building a foundation before you get overwhelmed,” and “I won’t forget anything.”
We are very proud and excited about the work that is happening in Alameda County Juvenile Hall, Thunder Road, and—beginning this fall— Contra Costa Juvenile Hall.
For more information on Creative Risk, visit our New Works/New Communities page in the coming months.