Secondary School Shakespeare Festival

2018 Secondary School Shakespeare Festival Application Deadline Extended

Give your students the experience of a lifetime as they perform Shakespeare for other DC, MD, and VA students on the Folger stage. The 2018 Festival takes place February 12-16 and 20-23 and is open to grades 7-12. Please submit before Friday, November 3, 2017.

February 12-16 & 20-23, 2018

The annual Secondary School Shakespeare Festival is open to students in grades 7-12 who attend school in the DC, Virginia, and Maryland metropolitan area.

Students come to the Folger for a full day and perform prepared pieces from Shakespeare for each other. Performances usually run for 25 minutes. Abridged versions of the plays or theme-based montages are welcomed, although all text should be in Shakespeare's original language.

While we regard the festival as a celebration of the Bard and not a competition, festival commentators—drawn from the professional theater and Shakespeare education communities—recognize exceptional performances, student directors, and good spirit amongst the students with selected awards at the end of each day. They also share praise and feedback with students immediately following each performance.

Our mission

The Secondary School Shakespeare Festival is born of a handful of deeply-held beliefs:

  • Shakespeare is a vibrant, passionate, human, hilarious, teachable, learnable, enjoyable playwright—and accessible to all students.
  • The best way to learn Shakespeare is to do Shakespeare. Whether you are a 7th grader or a senior, in a school with no drama teacher or one with three, scared to death or in your element, Shakespeare is for YOU. And the Folger Shakespeare Library is, too.
  • Festival days are designed so that students are each other's audience. Watching five other scenes is as educational as performing your own. Scenes from different plays are scheduled each day, so the students can come away with an idea of the range and texture of Shakespeare's work.
  • Students take ownership of Shakespeare by acting as their group's director, editor, stage manager, and other positions on or off stage. We expect that students within each group will take on these tasks.
  • Careful scheduling also ensures that students from different geographies and different kind of schools share the festival experience together. The world is an exciting and diverse place, and so is the Festival.
  • The Festival is fun. In order to keep it that way, the commentators will present recognition awards for excellence of every kind, and each student will go home with a tangible token of the day whether they trod the boards backstage or onstage. We want students to have a good time, a great time, maybe the time of their lives.

About the 2018 Secondary School Shakespeare Festival

In order to enhance all of the Festival's educational goals, we continue to make changes to certain areas of the Festival, as outlined below.

To foster greater collaboration among Festival participants from different schools takes place:

  • Buddy schools will be assigned in mid-January and we expect schools to start then to form an online community with one another.
  • Students will be asked to comment on one another's performances (see below).

To encourage student leadership in all phases of Festival work:

  • The application will ask for a full list of student contributions to the work, besides acting. It is important to us that students are also directing, editing, stage managing, leading language work, and more.
  • Our commentators are fewer in number and will provide encouraging comments and constructive ones, such as "if you are going to keep working on this, here are a couple of areas to focus on...” Commentators will give brief comments after each performance, and will ask for responsible comments from the students in the audience.
  • Each school will be asked to provide a short synopsis of their play as part of their broadside program.

Lastly, upon acceptance into the Festival, each participant will be required to submit release forms, so that we may take photographs and video during the Festival.


The Secondary School Shakespeare Festival gratefully acknowledges:

  • Graham Holdings Company
  • The Brian Cabe Memorial Fund of the Folger Shakespeare Library
  • With special thanks to the Washington Square Press at Simon & Schuster, Inc.
  • Additional support received from the Nancy Peery Marriott Foundation and generous donations from individuals.

Additional information

Questions? Check out our Festival FAQ, or contact Danielle Drakes, school programs manager, at (202) 675-0365 or