The Secondary Schools Festival is a non-competitive event for students to celebrate Shakespeare’s work, and encourages having fun with the text through performance. Each day of the Festival is observed by three commentators, local theatre and education professionals, who take notes on the performances they see to encourage students to continue performing. From these notes, students are recognized for their work directing their peers, exhibiting an understanding of the text as they perform, or for working together as a group to tell their story. Two named awards are reserved each day of the Festival for students or groups who exhibit qualities which embody the essence of celebration and fun at the Secondary Schools Festival through their participation and performance:
The Brian Cabe Spirit Award
Brian Cabe was a student at Lake Braddock Secondary School and a participant in Fairfax County Recreation Department drama classes when he discovered that theater and Shakespeare were two of the things in life that he liked best. In Recreation Department productions he played Romeo, Lysander, Laertes, Othello, and Francis Flute the bellows mender. During his high school years, Brian was an enthusiastic fan of the Folger Library Shakespeare Festivals, and in 1985 he played an Iago mean enough to impress both commentators and audience. We remember him as a fine actor but more than that as a participant who enjoyed all parts of the Festival—performing, worrying, watching, listening, laughing—with great gusto.
In August 1988, at age 19, Brian Cabe died of cancer. In celebration of Brian’s talent and high spirits, his family and friends have established a fund in his name at the Folger Library which will be used for the Shakespeare Festivals. On each Festival day, the commentators will award The Brian Cabe Award to the student or group who embody Brian’s passion through their participation and performance at the Secondary Schools Festival.
The Peggy O’Brien Award for Comedy
Dr. Peggy O’Brien is the founder of the Folger’s Teaching Shakespeare Institute for secondary teachers, and initiated the groundbreaking education series of textbooks, Shakespeare Set Free. After serving as the Folger’s first Head of Education, Dr. O’Brien was the senior vice president for educational programming and services for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Later, she served as the Director of Communications for the District of Columbia Public Schools. In 2008, Dr. O’Brien was presented with the Shakespeare Steward Award, in recognition of her long-standing contribution to Shakespeare education.
The Docent body of the Folger Shakespeare Library presents this award each year in honor of Dr. Peggy O’Brien, who loves the Secondary Schools Festival for the joy it brings to everyone involved. On each Festival day, the commentators recommend The Peggy O’Brien Award be given to the student or school who truly has fun with their material, especially if it is a comedic scene. The award is not for clowning, but for understanding why the text is funny, for adding their own comedic touch, and for giving the audience something to enjoy.