Bell Shakespeare’s Women in Shakespeare program

Bell Shakespeare’s Women in Shakespeare program uses drama to explore and rewrite female characters’ stories in Shakespeare. It is delivered in ten-week residencies to culturally and linguistically diverse young women in Western Sydney schools.

Bell Shakespeare’s Women in Shakespeare program

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Often these women have come from homes where they or their parents have had limited or interrupted education, and experience low levels of literacy. Some face household responsibilities that distract them from study.

Using a Shakespeare play as a basis, the female characters are studied in their original context with a focus on societal pressures and expected roles and responsibilities. Drama workshops include robust discussion and critical and creative thinking exercises.

Halfway through the residency, students are taught playwriting and creative writing. They then work in groups to write a new scene or rewrite an original scene in which the Shakespeare character is reimagined. Students give the characters new narratives with more power, agency and lines than they may have originally had in Shakespeare’s text. The new scenes are performed for an invited audience at the culmination of the residency.

Outcomes focus on highlighting female roles in society, encouraging student self-expression and confidence, improving literacy, critical and creative thinking, teamwork and empathy.

The 2019 program has recently been delivered at Moorefield Girls High School, with a focus on female representation and roles in Othello. Other participating schools have been Bankstown, Wiley Park, Birrong, East Hills and Blacktown Girls High Schools. Bell Shakespeare runs the program with support from the WeirAnderson Foundation.

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