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During its 2009 season, Pigeon Creek instituted an educational program which is unique not only in West Michigan, but in the country.

In partnership with Wayland Union High School in Wayland, Michigan, Pigeon Creek conducted a high school residency in which the company’s professional actors and teaching artists rehearsed and performed alongside 5 high school actors, and one recent alumna actor from Wayland Union.  The professional actors conducted workshops in Wayland Union drama classes, conducted an audition for high school actors, provided intensive workshop training to the cast, and rehearsed and performed Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale with the students playing major roles in the production.  In 2010, the company conducted another residency at Rogers High School in Wyoming, Michigan, rehearsing and performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  In the fall of 2012, Pigeon Creek conducted a residency at Kelloggsville High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan for a production of The Comedy of Errors.

This kind of residency explores the practice of apprenticeship and mentoring which was the major form of actor training during  Shakespeare’s own lifetime. Actors began their training in their pre-teen years, shadowing and performing with older, more experienced actors.  Pigeon Creek’s high school residency seeks to provide this same hands-on training and education through experience to the Shakespearean actors of the future.  The residency program also offers benefits to students who do not have previous acting experience. Learning to analyze Shakespearean language greatly increases students’ reading comprehension and language skills.  Live performance improves students’ confidence and public speaking skills.  The experience of rehearsing and performing a play teaches students time management, self-discipline, teamwork, and cooperation.
During the residency, student actors learn techniques for speaking Shakespeare’s language, fundamental acting skills, physical theatre styles, proper vocal technique, and the work ethic required to be a professional theatre artist.  Along with the 15-20 students who act in the residency play production, Pigeon Creek’s project reaches a large portion of each school’s student body with performances of the play, for which English teachers offer extra credit.  Pigeon Creek’s actors also visit all classes in which students study Shakespeare, performing scenes and discussing Shakespeare’s language and the history of Shakespearean theatre.  A portion of the ticket revenue from the performances of the residency play directly benefits the participating school’s theatre program


Photos credited to Tim Motley

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