Summer with(out) the Education Team

By Erin Frederick, Education Enrollment and Marketing Coordinator

If you were to visit the Hartford Stage offices during the months of July and August, you would find the education department side of the building to be oddly quiet – the desks vacant and computer screens dark. It’s during this time that our education team heads off site to run our booming Hartford Stage Summer Studio program. As quiet and empty as our education office space may be during this time, the halls of Summer Studio, housed at Classical Magnet School in Asylum Hill, practically pulsate with the energy, creativity and laughter of students.

Paperbag PuppetsThis summer, our theme was “Fairy Tales and Monsters.” Nearly 200 students joined us for classes in acting, improv, dialects, musical theatre, movement, Shakespeare, puppetry, arts and crafts, voice, dance, costume design, playwriting, and technical theatre. Our youngest students, the 3- to 5-year-old Day Dreamers, used imaginative play and ensemble-building techniques to create their own monsters and explore their favorite fairy tales. The Children’s Cast students (ages 5 – 8) created their own original plays, which included such creative elements as minions invading Fairy Tale Land, twelve rapping princesses, and the 1999 Fairy Tale Olympics.

Shrek, Jr.

The 14- to 17-year-old students in our Teen Musical Theatre Intensive put together a musical theatre revue, featuring songs from Newsies, Songs for a New World, The Wiz, Anastasia and more, and performed for an audience at Blue Back Square in West Hartford. The students of our Youth Ensemble program (for ages 9 – 15) had a whirlwind four weeks, in which they took a variety of elective classes, attended a performance of Wicked on Broadway, and rehearsed and performed two full-scale shows. Over 600 people attended their productions of Snow White and the Seven Fairy Godmothers and Shrek, Jr.

In August, our One-Act Play students (ages 9-15) presented some twisted takes on Happily Ever After with the plays Monster Hunters and Law and Order: Fairy Tale Unit. Likewise, our younger Bookends students (ages 5 – 8) explored such popular stories as Freckleface Strawberry and Avocado Baby, and then brought the characters and scenes to life onstage.

The Cast of Breakdancing Shakespeare: Hamlet. Photo by Defining Studios.Meanwhile, back downtown, 15 teenagers took over our rehearsal studios to create a thrilling production of Breakdancing Shakespeare: Hamlet. The program is part of the Greater Hartford Arts Council’s Neighborhood Studios program, which links youth with arts organizations that give students hands-on training in a specific artistic discipline and employs them as paid apprentices. Students trained in acting, dance, stage combat, and the interpretation of classical text, in addition to a rigorous rehearsal process for their adaptation of Shakespeare’s most famous work, which saw the tragic prince’s tale unfold on the streets of Hartford. The three performances at the University of Saint Joseph were attended by nearly 1,000 audience members.

Even as the education department’s delightfully chaotic summer season comes to a close, the excitement and creativity never ends. Education at Hartford Stage is now preparing for a full new roster of fall and winter classes for both Adult and Youth Studios. Visit for more details.