Secondary School Shakespeare Festival

Given the evolving COVID-19 crisis, Secondary School Shakespeare Festival will take a different shape. We will not be hosting the festival during the building renovation. We will announce our new thinking on this webpage in 2023.

2020 Festival Dates: March 3-5 and March 10-12

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 historically have come to the Folger for most of a day and perform Shakespeare for each other. Not a drama competition—or any kind of competition—the Festival magic is students sharing Shakespeare with one another. 

Performances run up to 25 minutes. Cut scenes from a single play or multiple scenes on one theme are all wonderful. The text must be the real thing—in Shakespeare's original language.

Folger On the Road!

With the start of the building renovation project, the Folger will not be hosting the festival in our own theater space this year.  However, we are excited to work with two local theaters who will serve as the "home base" for the Festival in 2020:

March 3, 4, and 5:  Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company will serve as the Festival's “home base” for the first week. Woolly Mammoth, located at 641 D Street NW, is closest to the Archives-Navy Memorial and Gallery Place Metro Stations, and isaccessible by bus. Woolly Mammoth started in 1986 as a company of artists looking for performers committed to a culture of provocation and embracing plays that took risks with style and content. The company includes playwrights, directors, and designers who work on performances from script development through the community dialogue surrounding each production. Under the leadership of new Artistic Director Maria Manuela Goyanes, Woolly Mammoth is excited to welcome your students to perform on its stage!

March 10, 11, and 12:  The Festival venue for this second week is the Anacostia Playhouse! We will welcome 15 schools to perform on the stage in their black-box theater. Anacostia Playhouse is located at 2020 Shannon Place, SE. The playhouse is located near the Anacostia Metro Station and can be reached on the 90 Bus from the station. The playhouse hosts the Theater Alliance, Verbal Gymnastics, Punky Swear, Scena Theater, Restoration Stage and Southeast Trinity. In addition to their mainstage productions, the Anacostia Playhouse hosts play readings, fundraisers and musical guests. Adele Robey, the Executive Director of the Anacostia Playhouse, has served as a commentator at many Folger Festivals—and she will this year too! Adele is excited for you to bring the spirit of the festival to the Anacostia Playhouse this year!

Festival mission

The Secondary School Shakespeare Festival is rooted in these deeply-held beliefs:

  • Shakespeare is a vibrant, passionate, human, hilarious, teachable, learnable, enjoyable playwright.
  • Every student can connect meaningfully with Shakespeare and should have the chance to do that here at the Folger!
  • 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. 
  • We strive to schedule so that students from different geographies and different kinds of schools share the festival experience together. The world is an exciting and diverse place; we need to know one another. 
  • 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 all or some of these tasks.
  • The Festival is fun! All students will go home with a tangible token of the day whether they trod the boards backstage or onstage. Commentators offer encouraging feedback and present recognition awards for excellence of every kind. We want students to have a good time, a great time, maybe the time of their lives.


About the 2020 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, 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. We will also ask all accepted schools to submit a letter of commitment with principal approval for Festival participation—we want to make sure that everyone from administration down is on board with your participation.



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. You may also contact Director of Education, Peggy O'Brien, at