NEA Arts Magazine

Bringing Shakespeare to a New Generation


three actors in period garb

The Shakespeare Theatre Company's production of Pericles in Washington, DC, as part of the NEA's Shakespeare for a New Generation initiative. Photo by Richard Termine.

When the NEA inaugurated Shakespeare in American Communities in 2003 the agency aimed to "revitalize the longstanding American theatrical tradition of touring." Since then, the NEA has brought Shakespeare to more than 1,700 communities in all 50 states, introducing a new generation of Americans to the English-language's greatest writer. But the Shakespeare program has had more than a cultural impact; the initiative also has provided employment to more than 1,200 of the nation's actors. Add the numerous other theater artists employed on these NEA-supported productions, such as directors, scenic artists, costume designers, and stage managers, and it's safe to double, if not triple, that number. It's also safe to say that some of the nearly one million students who have come to know Shakespeare through these actors and theater artists will join their ranks in the future, introducing yet another generation to the Bard and to the transformative vitality of live theater.