These are fine examples of some of the scores of letters that have been sent to the Germantown Board of Mayor and Aldermen seeking to restore TSC's education funding for next season. Thank you!
Dear Mayor, City Administrator, and Aldermen—
"Five years ago, a dream became a reality. A product of Germantown High School returned to his community with native talent and experience gained by exposure to the nation's great Shakespeare centers (and there are a number) to birth and nurture TSC with the hope that it too would become a cultural and economic asset to the community.
"The city of Germantown welcomed him and his dream, and outstanding residents of the community gave their support through generous and repeated funding, offering their homes and properties to the company. Morgan Woods was to be their home (remember that one?), and the theatre plans were developed.
"TSC has been a great cultural and economic success. I personally have visited other Shakespeare centers from San Diego to Chicago to Virginia to Alabama, and already TSC has distinguished itself among companies that have existed for well over 25years. It is a gem, a jewel, and yet it is still tender and vulnerable, struggling for funding but remaining fiscally sound as community and arts associations begin to recognize and support the educational and performance goals of the non-profit company.
"If Germantown wants to be seen as a community of desirable residence and business location, it cannot pull the rug out from under an organization that both in hard numbers and cultural prestige benefits it in such a positive way. Morgan Freeman, the famous actor, has been to a performance and found it outstanding. Hal Holbrook, who has performed at GPAC has expressed great interest. The students of the Germantown schools, whose lives are impacted by the free workshops, programs, and seminars which TSC brings into their classrooms, is an educational benefit beyond measure. Why not ask them?
"I understand that money is tight, and demands for services continue to increase, but you are devouring your seed corn, not planting it, when you fail to invest, as so many of us have personally to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars each year.
"I urge you to continue your support of TSC. It is an investment that you cannot afford not to make, for the sake of the community, now and in the future...
"Thank you for your time and consideration. My wife Margaret and I, along with others, will continue to offer our time and resources for this organization, which benefits not only the greater Germantown community but carries your reputation for the arts and the image of support to distant states, from Washington to the Carolinas.
- Owen B. Tabor, MD
President, Board of Directors
Tennessee Shakespeare Company
"As a Germantown resident and an educator, I was very distressed to find out that TSC's grant funding by our city was being eliminated. What an amazing treasure we have with this organization and troupe of actors. At a time when my own children (and my students) seem to be getting mired in destructive social media and exposed to so little high art and literature, TSC has given me hope that this generation will not be lost to fine arts. Shakespeare and his legacy live on--quite robustly--through the talents of this group.
"I also teach at St. Agnes Academy in the English department and have had TSC come to our school to do Shakespearean performances for the past 3 years. They have been professional, so authentic and energetic, and wildly popular with our students, many who live in Germantown. The actors not only perform, but talk to my students and answer their questions. Their performance is truly one of the highlights of the academic year.
"I understand that the city of Germantown has financially supported TSC and helped get it 'off the ground,' and I simply ask that you continue to put our hard-earned money to good use by funding TSC.
"I just recently attended TSC's performance of Hamlet with two of my high school students. Dan McCleary himself greeted me as we entered. Slade Kyle made sure I knew about the student discount on Thursday night. Trevor and Amelia had performed at St. Agnes a few weeks earlier, so I was delighted to see them in the cast. These hard-working and generous people are like part of our Germantown family. Let's please give them what they need to continue their dedicated work in our community."
- Dr. Jennifer Lovelace
"I am writing to encourage you with all my heart to reverse your position on de-funding Tennessee Shakespeare Company. While you may think that this is none of my concern, living in New York, I assure you that it is. Education has been my life's work, and it doesn't end at state boundaries. It is responsibility of all of us, working together, to provide our children access to this treasure trove of language and human insight. This isn't an easy task but you have done it already! With Dan McCleary's insight and determination your community is one of the lucky few communities which has been handed this treasure, a goldmine for your citizens and particularly for your children.
"I have witnessed the effect of exposing years and years of school children to Shakespeare. As a former head of school at the Buckley School in New York, a founder of the Cooke School, also in New York, a board member of Community Access to the Arts in Great Barrington, MA, and a board member of Shakespeare & Company in Lenox MA, I can assure you that I have seen the immeasurable benefits on a community that provides its children the opportunity to be in a Shakespearean play. I urge you not to give this up easily. It came to you through very very good fortune, your own good instincts, and untold months, even years, of the hardest work and insight of a man who was determined to bring the finest of what he had learned back home. Once gone, this gift cannot be easily retrieved. Please reconsider. There must be something less valuable, less precious to cut in the budget than the opening of children's minds.
- Kate Millonzi
"Please restore Tennessee Shakespeare Company's invaluable, matching classical education funding for FY14 either through leaving the GPAC facility fees alone (as they have been) or through a one-half cent increase on top of the proposed property tax increase.
"TSC is an asset to our community that increases our appeal to businesses and tourists, both of which bring money into our economy; however, the educational value of taking TSC INTO THE CLASSROOM is beyond measure. This changes lives."
- Kim Justis Eikner
"I am writing to urge all of you to continue your current funding of the Tennessee Shakespeare Company. Their performances have been consistently excellent and are a credit to Germantown in the eyes of the whole community and indeed the region. I hope that all of you have not only attended the full-length plays but have also seen samples of the performances that TSC gives to public schools throughout the area. They too are outstanding and have introduced tens of thousands of students to their literary heritage.
"My wife, who is retiring this year after thirty-eight years of teaching high school literature, has taken numerous students to the full-length plays and has been impressed both by the high standard of the productions and by the enthusiastic reactions of her students.
"I recognize the constraints of budgets, but these performances are a true jewel in the crown of your city. I urge you to find the will and the means of continuing your support for such an excellent cause."
- Ernest Kelly, Jr.
"I live in the most desirable suburb in Shelby county, a city which enjoys an impeccable credit rating. As a group you unanimously support the creation of an independent city school system in order to assure the quality of the education of our youth, their well-rounded personal growth and life preparation, and their collegiate competitiveness; and you recognize that economic sacrifices of some consequence, which this community overwhelmingly has shown itself willing to undertake, will have to be made by Germantown taxpayers in order to preserve this quality education. The City right now is also proposing a property tax increase of significant dimension in order to preserve the range of local amenities -- none more important than our children -- which we residents have experienced and appreciated.
"AND YET the present city budget would eliminate funding -- really only matching co-funding -- by the City of an enrichment program in the theater arts which broadly touches our student population and meaningfully introduces it to what is uniformly acknowledged to be the summit of English literature, the works of Shakespeare. Moreover, this singular benefit is accomplished through the efforts of and matching investment of monetary resources by a highly regarded professional theater company (TSC) which is, as we all well understand, essentially centered in Germantown to our great cultural and economic benefit.
"You certainly have anticipated my plea: can't you and won't you arrive at another solution which preserves this great and rare gift for our schoolchildren? If not, I hope to receive your explanation why that is not your decision and look forward to engaging you further in respectful dialogue at the meeting of the Germantown Mayor and Aldermen on June 10."
- John Oldenburg
"'Making colors sing' is my motivational mantra. In pursuing a meaningful life, setting goals that are above and beyond the normal mundane thought process, takes creative thinking skills. The arts programs that the City of Germantown promotes, has made Germantown sing as a city. Our city shines above most in the state of Tennessee. For a city of this size, having an orchestra, a chorus, art programs and multiple theatres, bring Germantown to a creative level that other cities only dream about.
"As a Germantown citizen for 35 years, it is the colorful songs that keep us living here. With this coming fiscal year there are signs that this wonderful song is twisting out of tune. The arts have been placed on a paper plate verses the silver platter that they need. Cuts in the city budget are taking funds from theatre and school programs that would promote creative thinking in our children. Theatre, music and the arts dust the cob-webbed spaces that many adults construct after years of under exposure. Passions from their youth fall into the dark crevices of their brains as family responsibilities and their work environment remain in the forefront. Small glimpses of the arts inspire and boost the old creative thought processes as well as provide entertainment. Our children, the youthful singers of the community, need the same exposure to creative thinking.
"Theatre is a fabulous liberal arts program. Involvement in theatre teaches most of the life principles that a person needs to function in the adult world. Where else can a child learn to memorize, learn to present ideas and thoughts in front of an audience, learn to work in a group or learn to pick up the slack when duty calls? Where else does one learn to appreciate literature, or learn to use the creative juices of design and movement?
"Tennessee Shakespeare, the new kid in the theatre district of Germantown, was established five years ago. Over these few years Dan McCleary brought a colorful array of creative theatre to the community. His mantra of "As You Like It" has presented Shakespeare in ways that have never been seen in the past. Actors from New York City to Seattle have graced our city with their talents. The school program wing of Tennessee Shakespeare has reached over 100,000 children. These are the kids who will be tomorrow's leaders. Their dreams may not be to act. They will be the scientists, the doctors, the lawyers, and the police officers of the next generation. Through this exposure to creative production, acting presentation, and literature analysis they will be ready to meet the world head on...
"By bestowing continued financial support to Tennessee Shakespeare and the Germantown High School Radio and TV programs, the City of Germantown will continue to 'Make Colors Sing' as one of the best cities in the state. Maintaining these fine arts programs is crucial to a thriving community."
- Carolyn Shepard
"I'm writing to ask you to please look and see if there is some way that you can keep the funding for Tennessee Shakespeare Co in the budget. I think that what they are doing with the kids is incredible, something that no other program is offering. I believe so much in what they are doing that I regularly volunteer my time with them. And I think it would be a shame to lose this influence on our kids.
"I know times are tight, but whatever you can do on this would be greatly appreciated."
- Gavin Anderson
"As an English teacher of some 48 years, I am appalled at the proposed elimination of funding for Tennessee Shakespeare Company. I can only deduce that you are not aware of the significant impact that the company has had on large numbers of students from Germantown and Memphis in the short time that the company has been here. I have watched my students come alive as a professional actor came to my classroom and worked with them on the texts of Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night's Dream, As You Like It, and Othello. I have seen the difference a live performance can make in a student's understanding of and appreciation for a play.
"I realize that in the current climate of budget cuts, the arts are always the first to be sacrificed, but I had always assumed that the reason was that people did not understand the importance of the arts in teaching young people to think deeply and critically about life's most significant issues. It would seem to me that a town known for its Charity Horse Show might also like to be recognized for its understanding of the importance of the arts in the development of its young people.
"I would hope that you would reconsider this decision."
- Patricia Kelly
"My name is Wolfe Coleman, and I am a member of Tennessee Shakespeare Company.
"Over the last three years, I have participated in the TSC Education Program as both a performer and a teacher. I beg of you to do whatever it takes to find a way to continue funding this program. If you read Romeo & Juliet as a student, you write a paper, answer a few questions on a test, and then forget most of the experience. But if you see Romeo & Juliet as a student, you find yourself immersed in that world...you are profoundly affected by it...you discover how it relates to things you are dealing with in your own life...and you will probably be able to recite some of the lines to your grandchildren from memory. How do I know this? Because I was lucky enough to grow up in a place where we had Shakespeare performed in all the schools as well. It changed my life, and I saw the power of this work. It awakens passions in young people that they didn't know existed inside them. It forces them to ask questions, to analyze and interpret, to demand more of themselves. Even years later, I still receive letters from students who saw one of the TSC productions, and it's easy to understand why.
"When I watch students work on a Shakespeare scene, I watch them grow as human beings. They discover their capabilities and the depth of their humanity, and it's because the work, at its core, demands that kind of introspection. At TSC, I have had the privilege to work alongside some of the more skilled teachers of Shakespeare that I have ever encountered, and I have worked with hundreds of highly-regarded Shakespeare professionals. The growth that these teachers are fostering in your community will pay dividends for years to come. Those students will grow up with a broader concept of the world and their place in it...with a greater understanding of the power of their actions and their hearts...with a full, open soul that is more capable of embracing the most valuable qualities of the human spirit; forgiveness, love, compassion...and with a mind that has been trained to ask the most difficult questions, which are often the most vital.
"Now is not the time to pass up the opportunity to give the gift of this work to the children in your care. The opportunity to change lives in such a profound way is very rare; and surely Germantown should be proud of the singular nature of TSC's contribution to the culture of the city, not looking to let it fall by the wayside."
- Wolfe Coleman
"I am writing in response to the cuts of community cultural programs in the city's FY 2014 Proposed Budget. Twenty years ago, my family chose Germantown over local municipalities because of the high quality of life the city provided its residents. Dwindling public support for cultural programs indicates that, in another twenty years, Germantown will no longer be the vibrant community that attracted my family.
"The productions of Tennessee Shakespeare Company are major cultural benefits to our community. Shakespeare productions are a tradition around the country, indicative of the health of their home communities. I have had the opportunity to attend Shakespeare in the Park in New York and the American Shakespeare Center in Virginia. These are national enterprises with acclaimed actors, but the shows by our local company certainly rival theirs and have the ability to become major draws for tourists from around the country.
"Under Dan McCleary's leadership, Tennessee Shakespeare's events have become highly anticipated and enjoyable theatrical outings. Its reputation is growing across the region. Tennessee Shakespeare productions are destination events for theatre lovers, but also tourists for looking for a family-friendly, engaging cultural experience in a safe and hospitable community. Let us continue to spread this reputation.
"The economic impact of these productions surpasses the city's contributions. This company needs a firm foundation from which to plan their theatrical and educational endeavors. Tennessee Shakespeare Company is aggressive in their fundraising efforts in the community. I am proud to count myself among their contributors. However, to continue to enable Tennessee Shakespeare Company to put on high-level productions, the city must continue to financially contribute to their efforts. Our city must do its part to make Shakespeare and new theatre available to the children of our area and the citizens of our community. We need to continue to promote ourselves as vibrant, intellectual, and desirable in order to ensure the ongoing prosperity of our city.
"Residents of the Mid-South look to Germantown and its leaders to create a premier community. Amenities such as Tennessee Shakespeare Company help to establish that reality. Please continue to support their efforts as you have in the past..."
- Adrienne Pakis-Gillon
"As an educator on both the high school and college level, I have seen educational fads come and go. Tennessee Shakespeare, however, teaches character ethics, acting skills, and appreciation for the arts in a way no self help 'handout' can.
"My own teenagers have been involved in this program, and it helps them acquire a depth of cultural understanding not to be found in multiple choice tests or AP practice.
"Please -- consider the children and the future of Germantown arts and support this program with funding."
- Amie Sims
Dear Tennessee Shakespeare Company:
"I was proud to wear my TSC colors and stand with you Monday night. Thank you for your vision and passion for classical theatre and for educating and enlightening our youth (and all of us) in the Mid-South!
- Diane Lofink
"I have shared your plea with everyone I know. Cutting quality arts programs - and of all things, Shakespeare- really? I remain horrified what qualifies as "important" in the business of educating kids.
"I homeschool 3 boys - 2 of whom are dyslexic. My youngest son, who hates to read, gets 'dragged' to all your productions, where he ends up having a good time and pointing out the 'good parts' to me on the way home. Thank you for this.
"My other dyslexic son is currently at your Shakespeare camp this week. He has a sheet of lines to memorize...but will do so happily and with enthusiasm because of his interest in Shakespeare...He loves seeing the plays and has volunteered as a Groundling this year. Thank you for this.
"My oldest, who is an avid reader, had read The Glass Menagerie for a class and asked if we could go see the play. Asked. Not forced to go by his parents or teachers, just curious to 'see' the play and if it 'matched' what he read. Thank you for this.
"It must be frustrating to be in your shoes, and I am happy to see all the support you are receiving. I am behind your fight 100%."
- Pam D.
"You are doing tremendous legwork, as I am sure you did in getting it all started. Praying for this!!"
- Caroline Phillips
An Open Letter from Dan McCleary
Tennessee Shakespeare Company founder and producing artistic director
May 21, 2013
Dear Friend of Shakespeare.
The City of Germantown, TN, in which Tennessee Shakespeare Company resides, is proposing to eliminate entirely the City's education grant funding to TSC for the annual budget to begin July 1, 2013.
The City generously awarded education grants to TSC in varying sums for the past five years. TSC has always matched these grant dollar-for-dollar. For the past two years, this funding has totaled $70,000 each year for immersive, innovative, classical education for ALL Germantown students (not just theatre students). What's more, the grant is made possible not by tax-payers but by those of us (TSC included) who rent the Germantown Performing Arts Center in town. Now, the City wants those rental fees to help offset issues in their annual budget.
To our knowledge, TSC's education program is the only arts and education grant being proposed for 100% elimination.
The grant makes possible TSC's classical education program and free/discounted access to live, professional Shakespeare to thousands of students at the five Germantown schools, including free playshops, free residencies, Free Will Kids Nights, deeply-discounted morning matinees of all of TSC's professional productions, the innovative Romeo and Juliet Project, and the pre-show Prelude scenes.
The City says that the economy is forcing it to make difficult decisions. For those of you who have had your position eliminated or salary cut in the past four years, as we have done at TSC, I am sure you, as I, appreciate this position.
However, what we have never done at TSC is cut or eliminate a program that was more than doubling its return on investment financially while also providing a socially responsible and academically measurable service to our community. That would be a questionable business decision. And we certainly wouldn't be adhering to our mission.
I respectfully submit to you that the City, in proposing this education program de-funding, is addressing other priorities than its stated mission.
What is The Romeo and Juliet Project?
This spring, TSC brought Romeo and Juliet to life for every ninth-grade student at Bartlett, Ridgeway, and Kirby High Schools as part of The Romeo and Juliet Project. Every freshmen class received three visits from a TSC Teaching-Artist who moved the text off the page to create an active encounter with the play.
The Romeo and Juliet Project has two life-changing, even life-saving, goals:
1) To bolster interest and engagement in classical literature, sparking a life-long love affair with reading while strengthening both comprehension and self-confidence.
2) To create positive social change in each school's learning community. We do this by exploring three central themes within the play that profoundly affect Memphis youth:
- Armed Violence;
- Peer Pressure; and
- Decision-Making in the absence of adult role models.
Over the course of three sessions, students develop language to articulate their feelings, gain greater empathy and compassion for one another, and explore life-saving alternatives to resolving conflicts violently.
What are Teachers and Students Saying?
"I can't believe how into it the students are. They're really going beneath the surface and getting to the issues in this play. The way TSC teachers highlight how the story relates to the students' lives is amazing. What TSC is doing is amazing. The whole project is just amazing!"
- Barb Gelb, Director of Education & Outreach, ArtsMemphis
"This is the most enjoyable class ever. I wish you could teach the entire play!"
- Freshman English Student, Bartlett High School
"Because my students had the privilege to watch the actors in action, the play truly came alive for them during our subsequent reading of the play. The program has benefitted countless students, and I sincerely hope that it can continue its impact."
- Morgan Byrd, Freshman English Teacher, Bartlett High School
How Can I Get Involved?
Our work in the three target schools was so successful that we want to expand and bring this life-saving message to even more students throughout Memphis in Fall 2013. The Romeo and Juliet Project is funded in part by ArtsMemphis, but you can help ensure our success in the classroom by becoming a Project Sponsor.
Your sponsorship helps fund this exciting outreach endeavor, further guaranteeing that no student or school will EVER have to pay to participate. As our "thank you," your minimum sponsorship of $50.00 entitles you to receive the exclusive Romeo and Juliet Project T-Shirt. Sizes are limited, so hurry for best selection!
Open Call for Applications to Tennessee Shakespeare Company's Salaried Journeyman Artist-Manager Program
Tennessee Shakespeare Company is now accepting letters of intent for its 2013-14 performance season in Germantown/Memphis, TN.
One male and one female artist-manager from the United States will be selected as resident journeymen.
Performers of all ethnic and racial backgrounds are encouraged to apply.
Fourth Annual Summer Shakespeare Camps offered in Germantown by TSC
Germantown, Tenn. (May 1, 2013) – Tennessee Shakespeare Company, the Mid-South's professional, classical theatre and education organization, is offering two unique, immersive Shakespeare Play Camps to be held at the Poplar Pike Playhouse at Germantown High School this June.
Camps are open to students entering Grades 6-12.
These fun one- and two-week Camps offer participants the opportunity to train alongside TSC's professional actor-teachers, build upon essential acting techniques, and take personal ownership of Shakespeare's text.
"For children new to Shakespeare, you couldn't ask for a better introduction," promises Education Director, Stephanie Shine. "Meeting these plays as a player of Shakespeare makes them immediate, accessible, and most of all fun. After the TSC camp experience, a student will eagerly greet Shakespeare like a good friend when they meet him again in a traditional classroom."
Playing, training, and rehearsing just like TSC actors, participants are led through sessions in Stage Combat, Text Work, Scene Play, Voice Work, Stage Movement, and Elizabethan Dance. Both Summer Play Camps are performance-based, and culminate in a public sharing of soliloquies, scenes, combat, and dance.
- TSC's Hamlet plays in an elegant Edwardian production at Memphis' Dixon Gallery and Gardens
- 'The Apparel Oft Proclaims the Man' Costume Exhibit to Come March 18
- WKNO and TSC hosting costume exhibit and documentary screening
- TSC and WKNO in Memphis Awarded One of Ten WNET Grants in the United States to Partner for “Shakespeare Uncovered” in 2013