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Young Performers Reimagine Classic Tales at the Chester County Shakespeare Festival

Middle and elementary school students from across Chester County brought Shakespearean classics to life during the 35th annual Shakespeare Festival at the Madeleine Wing Adler Theatre at West Chester University on Wednesday, May 22, 2024.
The Chester County Shakespeare Festival, organized by the Chester County Intermediate Unit (CCIU) and sponsored in part by CCRES Educational and Behavioral Health Services, celebrates Shakespearean literature while offering an avenue for students to perform their modern interpretations of classic stories, provided that their performances stay within the main themes of the original plays. Additionally, the participating students and their audience were entertained by a Master of Revelry, played by a professional actor who presented facts about Shakespeare, his works, and his life in Elizabethan England.
“I believe theater is great for students, especially younger children, who are trying to build some self-confidence and figure out who they are - it’s a little self-esteem boost,” said Frank Munroe, this year’s Master of Revelry. “It helps teach life skills, more than anything. They learn how to work as a team, how to interact, how to count on themselves, and let others count on them as well. It’s a great experience.”

Following their own performances, each participant had the opportunity to watch the other school’s adaptations and learn from their peers. While not a competition, individual and group awards were presented to students and their schools to recognize notable contributions to the stage. 
Savannah Riberio, a seventh-grade student at Penns Grove Middle School, explained that her greatest takeaway from participating in the event was honing the ability to learn from her peers. By analyzing what others may have succeeded or struggled with, she was able to perfect her own performance by the time she took the stage. 
When asked what the most important thing she learned at the festival was, she stated, “Definitely be loud, have fun, and don’t let other people distract you or tell you what you can and can’t do.”
As the drama director for Penns Grove, Jeremy Hammer also recognizes the benefit of gathering a respectful and eager audience of students that share similar interests. He expressed his appreciation for the flexibility, supportiveness, and creative freedom that transpires throughout the festival each year. 
“What I love about the Shakespeare Festival is that it’s so welcoming, even if you do make mistakes,” said Hammer. “Everyone is so supportive and wants to see you succeed. It’s just such an awesome festival.”  
Annually, the Chester County Shakespeare Festival brings together over 300 talented students from elementary and middle schools across the county. Each participating school is allotted 20 minutes to perform an adaptation of a Shakespearean play.  To learn more about the Chester County Shakespeare Festival, please visit
Photo Caption 1: Two students from Downingtown Middle School performing their rendition of a classic Shakespeare story, The Tempest.