Using the works of William Shakespeare, The Viola Project unites and empowers girls from diverse backgrounds so they may grow up to be whoever they want to be... even Hamlet.
The Viola Project provides a space for girls aged 10-16 to come together and explore classic texts while engaging in a vibrant discussion of contemporary issues facing girls and women. We believe that history and literature are springboards for understanding who we are today. While Shakespeare’s text is the common thread of our programs, we have an interdisciplinary approach to learning that goes beyond the written word. Our students practice self defense, create visual art, learn musical instruments, study stage craft, interview professional women, attend live performances, and perform works of their own.
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In the Spring of 2004, TVP's founders, Reina Hardy and Ellie Kaufman, were acting in a Chicago production of Lysistrata. A conversation one night after a performance led them to realize they shared similar thoughts about theatre growing up; that is, that there were always more girls interested in theatre than there were roles for them to play in school productions. Reina had been privileged to take part in a summer Shakespeare program which had a gender-blind casting policy, and as a result she was able to play such roles as Iago and Hamlet. Ellie thought this was a fantastic idea and wondered why there wasn't such a program in existence in Chicago today. Taking the idea one step further, they decided to create a program where only girls would be allowed to participate, so they could play all the meaty, complex, difficult, exciting characters Shakespeare envisioned. After all, in the year 1600, only men were allowed on stage. Isn't turnabout fairplay?
The name of the program comes from Shakespeare's heroine in Twelfth Night, Viola, who is marvelously adept at playing a man and yet in the end does not compromise her wit, her strength, or her feelings one bit in order to get what she wants.
The Viola Project has had a partnership with City Lit Theater since 2006. This wonderful theater, located in the Bryn Mawr Historic district, co-sponsors our one-day workshops and summer programming. We love our home on the City Lit stage! Learn more about City Lit at www.citylit.org.