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One of our favorite things to do is check in with former TVP students and see what they’re up to! We sat down with Wendy to talk to her about how the Viola Project has influenced her life and where she’s at these days!

Check it out! And don’t forget to register for summer camps just like the ones Wendy was part of all those years ago!

TVP: When did you first start doing Viola Project and why?

Wendy: I started doing Viola Project the summer I moved to Chicago, in 2012. I moved from downstate, in Champaign-Urbana, and Chicago was a big adjustment, to say the least. I was a stranger in Chicago, and with school starting three months from when I moved, I would be a stranger for awhile yet. With that in mind, I wanted something - not familiar, but relatable. Back in Champaign, I had taken another all-girls camp, for fencing, and really enjoyed it. Back at my old school, I really enjoyed theater. Viola Project was the place I found that I could relate to.

TVP: Tell us about what kind of impact Viola Project has had on you.

Wendy: The Viola Project had a remarkable impact on me. For one, as the need arose  to fit a social image and clique entering middle- and high school, being not only an all-around nerd, but also a drama kid who enjoyed reading, analyzing, and performing Shakespeare really helped cement my “nerd cred” (as the kids say). Starting at Payton, many worry about what they’ll be, since they were “the smart one” at their old school just like every other freshmen. But with a love of Shakespeare, I could be secure as a nerd among nerds.

“The Viola Project taught me how to question things through different lenses, something that has impacted me not just in regards to Shakespeare, but the broader world.”

All jokes aside, the Viola Project really did change me in that it didn’t just provide me with new knowledge (which it did), but the framework to explore further. The Viola Project taught me how to question things through different lenses, something that has impacted me not just in regards to Shakespeare, but the broader world. I have a distinct memory of one camp, I think focused on The Taming of the Shrew, and the discussion we had. Our instructor asked, Is Shakespeare sexist? Uh, yeah, I thought at the time. Many of Shakespeare’s plays not only had female leads, but ones whose intelligence and fire were portrayed as strengths that needed no correction (The Taming of the Shrew a notable one-off). But then the instructor did something I never would have thought of, that made me reexamine my perspective: she compared the number of words male leads versus female leads spoke in different plays. The major, positive characters (Viola from Twelfth Night, Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing, and Portia from The Merchant of Venice)  virtually all had fewer lines than the men in their plays. Now, my general belief is that Shakespeare was progressive (in terms of women and, I’d say, Judaism, but that’s my own hot take and Merchant is still really dicey) compared to his contemporaries. However, that leads to the question, why is his 16th century representation of women often favorable compared to the portrayal of women now? And that’s the kind of question that the Viola Project taught me to ask, and the kind of question that expands not just knowledge, but thinking.

On a personal level, the Viola Project helped me interact with groups (crucial to staging group scenes) and interact with others. Funnily enough, when I was an awkward freshman entering high school, the knowledge and love of Shakespeare provided a link between me and a classmate who would go on to become one of my closest friends.

TVP: What's next for you?

Wendy: This summer, I’ll be doing a summer program with St. John’s College, in which we’ll be using Shakespeare’s The Tempest (paired with other works by Machievelli, Plutarch, and DuBois) to examine how governments balance freedom and order, whether it’s possible to find a perfect balance between the two, and how different societies and governments emerge.

TVP: Good luck, Wendy!


The Viola Project on the Reduced Shakespeare Company podcast!

March 27, 2019

This month we were interviewed on the Reduced Shakespeare Company Podcast .

Check it out and hear Program Director Rebecca Dumain talk about the history of Viola Project and why we do what we do!

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A while back we heard from parents who were desperate to have something creative for their kids to do on school days off. We got to thinking, why not host a Presidents Day workshop for one-day-only to get girls talking about government and leadership? We could do scenes of great women in leadership roles, as well as cross gender cast parts like Henry V, all while getting in touch with our own leadership styles!

Now, we’re on our 5th annual Every Inch a Queen workshop and we couldn’t be more excited to continue talking to young women about what it takes to be a great leader!

I talked to Jessica Alldredge who’s been teaching the workshop since it began about what her experience has been like. She’ll be returning to teach for the 5th time at our Edgewater location on February 18th. Make sure to sign up in Edgewater or Hyde Park, as space is limited!

TVP: Why do you think it’s important to have a program like our Presidents Day workshop?

Jessica: I think this program is important because there are so many opinions about the leadership in our world, and we often aren't asking for the opinions of our youth. After the 2016 election, I remember asking a group of middle school students if they felt that their voices mattered as women and as minorities. They responded that their opinions didn’t matter because “they're kids.” Not only do we need to be asking their opinions but we need to ask in such a way that allows them to respond without fear of judgment

TVP: If you could put any Shakespeare character in the White House, who would it be and why?

Jessica: I've thought about this one and I really want to say Rosalind because she's the first one who comes to mind. She's fair and creative especially in the face of adversity. She handles herself and doesn't strive for power. The Prince from Romeo and Juliet also comes to mind. He listens to both sides and seeks justice and a more peaceful future. I think at this point in our history we do not need people who project power as much as we need people who will listen and understand that much of leadership is walking alongside those less privileged. We need someone who understands not just the rights but the responsibilities of government. 

TVP: Any cool moments from past workshops you want to share?

Jessica: The year of Trump's inauguration I was concerned about what our workshop would be. He is a polarizing figure and I was concerned that the workshop would just become mudslinging which isn't helpful for many reasons. I wanted the students to talk about actions and not individuals and to really explore the rights and responsibilities of leadership. We didn't talk about the individuals in the current administration. Instead we talked about the decisions and stances that make a leader valuable to their people.

Hope to see you all in Edgewater or Hyde Park this February 18th!


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We are thrilled to tell you that we now have an arts administration apprenticeship and that the wonderful Abigail Armato is blazing the way as our first ever admin apprentice!

Our apprentices are amazing humans and we want YOU to get to know them! 

TVP: What did you study in college?

I studied English and Drama, both because I love Shakespeare and because I love all forms of storytelling.

TVP:  How did you become interested in The Viola Project?

I found out about The Viola Project while doing research for possible internships in college. The Viola Project excited me because of its mission to empower young women through Shakespeare. I'm thrilled to be a part of the team this summer!

TVP: What's you're favorite play or character and why?

My favorite character from Shakespeare's canon is definitely Rosalind from As You Like It. She is such a strong lady; from her quick thinking and constant scheming to her teaching lessons about life and love, Rosalind is thoroughly a rock star. During one of her lessons, Rosalind teases Orlando after he claims he will die if he cannot have his love by saying: "Men have died from time to time, and worms have eaten them, but not for love" (4.1). This witty retort is one of my favorites quotes!

TVP:  Do you have any special skills that might come in handy this summer for useful and/or entertainment purposes?

I love to cook and to try out new recipes. Historically, I have been terrible at making food, but since graduating from college, I have really enjoyed learning more about cooking. I am currently mastering chicken piccata!

Welcome, Abby!


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The Viola Project wants the world to be filled with people working towards gender equality.  We're devoted to our amazing students, but we also work with recent college grads to give them professional experience through an apprenticeship! We have offered teaching artist apprenticeships for the past five years, and this year we are offering our first ever arts administration apprenticeship!

Our apprentices are amazing humans and we want YOU to get to know them!  Here's a little bit about the wonderful Shea Lee who will be joining us as a teaching artist apprentice this summer after graduating from Northwestern University!

TVP: What did you study in college?

Shea: I studied theatre in college, with concentrations in musical theatre and Theatre for Young Audiences. I also minored in Asian American Studies.

TVP:  How did you become interested in The Viola Project?

Shea: I had never heard of The Viola Project until a member of the acting faculty at Northwestern sent out information about these apprenticeships. As soon as I read the mission statement, I knew this was a program in which I wanted to be involved.

TVP: What's you're favorite play or character and why?

Shea: My favorite play is Anon(ymous) by Naomi Iizuka. It's an adaptation of the Odyssey, centered around teenage refugees in the United States. I love it because its language and images are extremely beautiful, almost poetic. I also love that a character who was originally a king, a warrior, and a hero finding his way back to the home where he grew up, has been rewritten as an unknown, nameless teenager searching for home in a place far away from where he grew up. It takes on extra significance in light of the US's current attitude towards immigrants and refugees, and when I, a woman, played Anon this past fall, it upped that significance from a refugee story to a queer feminist refugee story.

TVP:  Do you have any special skills that might come in handy this summer for useful and/or entertainment purposes?

Shea: I am trained in Commedia dell'Arte, a form of improvised comedy that uses masked stock characters and developed during the Italian Renaissance. It's a lot of fun, although the stock characters adhere somewhat to gender norms. So, using the form in a setting with all girls and women would prove to be an interesting experiment.

If you're a camper this summer with us, you might see Shea during Speak the Speech, Comedy Camp (Oak Park), Rebel Girls Fight Back (Edgewater) and Quality of Mercy.


Chicago Children's Theatre Hosts The Viola Project this summer!

May 24, 2018

We are so excited to bring our signature girl-powered Shakespeare program to the West Loop!  We will be hosting a week of camp based on one of our most popular offerings, Warrior Queens!  Campers will focus on the indomitable dames, often based on real-life leaders, who fight their way through Shakespeare’s works.  Love the mad Queen Margaret? The French fighter Joan of Arc?  The commanding Cleopatra?  GRRL Power camp is for you:)

We'll be doing what we do best, just in a different location!

Chicago Children's Theatre is our generous host and all registration questions and sign ups should be directed to their website and their staff!

Can't wait to see you at the Station this August!


CHARLOTTE AT LAST YEAR'S SPRING BREAK CAMP "MEASURE FOR MEASURE"

CHARLOTTE AT LAST YEAR'S SPRING BREAK CAMP "MEASURE FOR MEASURE"

We were elated when our student Charlotte M. said she had an idea to bring The Viola Project down to her own neighborhood Hyde Park. (BTW, at 16 Charlotte isn't so "little" anymore, but she is definitely FIERCE!)  We told her if she led the way, we would follow.  So Charlotte set to work printing and posting flyers and getting us in touch with schools near by.  What followed was our largest, most successful President's Day workshop ever.  We sat down with Charlotte to find out a little more information about what inspired her to take on something like this, despite it being the middle of the school year!

TVP:  What do you love about Viola Project?

Charlotte:  I don't know where to start about what I love about Viola. Personally, it was the first theater camp that truly taught me how to act; I broke out of my shell there, and Viola's taught me so much about acting over the past five years. Concerning the community, I think Viola creates this beautiful environment for young women to grow in so many ways. Viola really blends social justice, acting, and literature in a way that's fun and interactive. Not to mention the opportunities it gives to girls whose families may not be able to afford summer camps. It gives me a lot of hope for the future to see great programs offer low cost workshops where girls can really excel. 

TVP: What was your first Viola Project experience?

Charlotte:  My first Viola Project experience was in the summer of 2013. I think it was called something like Food and Falstaff? Not sure, but I have a t-shirt from that summer still. Brings back good memories!

TVP:  What made you want to bring The Viola Project to your community?

Charlotte:  Seeing how Viola offered scholarships, I thought bringing Viola to a generally more diverse (ethnicity and income-level) part of Chicago would really put that offer to good use. I think that a program like The Viola Project should reach as far as it can and give every girl a chance to learn in a safe environment. I hope to see it expand even more in the future. 

TVP: What were some challenges you faced with trying to get this program off the ground?

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Charlotte:  Working with Rebecca to make the Hyde Park workshop a reality was amazing. I have to give most of the credit to her, because while I had an idea, Rebecca was the one who really set up the location and organization. But if I had to pinpoint what was most difficult for me, I'd say advertising and balancing work for the program with school work. I've learned a lot about time management and organization from helping to set up this workshop. I was so pleasantly surprised to hear Hyde Park's workshop on President's Day was the largest, and I hope I can work with more events in that location soon. 

TVP:  Anything else you'd like to add?

Charlotte:  What impressed me the most in this process was the hard work and cooperation of The Viola Project's management. I could never have made this real without Rebecca and all the other great women who run Viola. I literally just gave them an idea I felt really strongly about, and they said "Ok, let's find a way to make this happen together." That was such a refreshing and fulfilling answer after feeling like I had no way to make a difference for a long time. It was really a testament to Viola's mission to help women change the world, and I'm so grateful for all the help they gave me. 

Thanks, thanks, and ever thanks, Charlotte!


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We are so excited to return to Hayt Elementary for the second year in a row!  We could not be here without the incredible support of the Hayt Elementary staff or the generous funding from DePaul University!  Teacher Lexi Saunders is returning to Hayt and she is pretty excited about it!  We sat down with her to get some insight into what her class will be working on this year...

TVP: Tell us a little about Hayt last year since it was your first time at that school.

Lexi: Hayt is honestly one of my favorite schools I have ever taught at. It's wonderfully inclusive and supportive, and our teachers and students are so excited about Viola Project! Last year we focused our 10 weeks on finding our voice and different ways to use it. The students were really curious about exploring the darker or trickier sides of their voices that they don't normally get to use. So we played a lot with darker characters like Iago, Tamora, Richard III, and Lady M, as well as other lighter characters who are tricksters or in disguise like Puck, Viola, and Rosalind.

TVP: What kinds of topics are you planning on covering in class?

Lexi: This year, we are focusing on "Activism, Advocacy, & Allyship". We'll be discussing what it really means to be a strong activist, advocate, and ally, especially as a young person of an underprivileged gender. We'll be writing sonnets on issues and causes they are passionate about, and working on scenes and monologues with characters who use their voices to speak up for themselves and others. And we'll have a ton of fun doing it!

lexi saunders, TVP Teaching artist

lexi saunders, TVP Teaching artist

TVP: What kinds of scenes are you interested in?

Lexi: Right now, I'm looking at scenes where a character really stands up for something, whether it be a cause, a belief, a loved one, a family member, a friend, or other.  We may also include some scenes of people in power and how they wield it. I am currently considering Hermione and Paulina in Winter's Tale, Cassius and Mark Antony in Julius Caesar, Lady M in Macbeth, Cordelia in King Lear, Beatrice in Much Ado, and some others!

TVP: If you had some advice for a new student in this program who has never done Viola Project before, what would you say?

Lexi: I would tell them Viola Project is an awesomely welcoming and inclusive space to explore Shakespeare and make new friends! Our new students really loved it last year and we've got even more fun new stuff for this year!


YWLCS drama teacher Gerald Chaney

YWLCS drama teacher Gerald Chaney

"Since The Viola Project in-class workshops began, I have noticed that our scholars readily read aloud assignments and participate in and lead group discussions..."

Bringing high quality programs to schools means working with exceptional teachers and educators.  This week we reached out to Gerald Chaney at the Young Women's Leadership Charter School to get his perspective on the power of The Viola Project in the classroom.

TVP: What made you interested in bringing The Viola Project into your classroom?

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GC:  I was interested in the Drama and Performing Arts class students being exposed to more acting activities and experiences that build their public speaking confidence.

TVP: How has The Viola Project supported the learning goals of your classroom?

GC:  Since The Viola Project in-class workshops began, I have noticed that our scholars readily read-aloud assignments and participate in and lead group discussions.

TVP:  What is the best thing about having The Viola Project at the Young Women's Leadership Charter School?

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GC: Our Scholars enjoy every activity that Skyler, Evey, and Lexi lead. The students look forward to connecting/tying in The Viola Project themes, ideas, and weekly lessons into other content area lessons.

TVP: Anything else you'd like to add?

GC: THANKS!

We are thankful to Gerald for introducing us to his 65 amazing students and to our incredible donors and as well as the Arbonne Foundation, without whom this collaboration would not be possible.

Here's to continued success!


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