In 1995, Project Zero was awarded a contract to conduct a study of the educational programs of Shakespeare & Company, a professional theater company based in Western Massachusetts and devoted to producing the plays of William Shakespeare. The company, almost twenty years old, has a long-standing commitment to education, in particular to the professional training of actors and to teaching theater in elementary, middle, and high schools. Project Zero was asked to examine two components of the school-based educational programs: the National Institute on Teaching Shakespeare (NITS), a summer residential program for approximately twenty high school teachers; and the Fall Festival of Shakespeare (FF), a ten play festival with almost 400 students performing for each other and the community in Berkshire County, Massachusetts.
Between 1995 and 1997, a team of researchers from Project Zero, under the direction of Steve Seidel, attended classes, rehearsals, directors meetings, performances, lectures, and numerous other settings in which Shakespeare & Company teachers have engaged with the teachers and students in these programs. Through observation, interview, and surveys, the Project Zero team has collected considerable documentation and data on the experiences these participants have in these learning settings.
The report, completed in July 1998, discusses the ways in which the participants in the NITS and the FF describe these experiences and the impact of participating in them on their understandings of Shakespeare and of themselves as learners and teachers. Further, the report analyzes what aspects of these educational programs seem to produce the most profound impressions and lessons for participants.