Throughout November and December, Teaching Artists with Kentucky Shakespeare zoomed into DSL virtual classes to teach on Shakespeare’s life and legacy, and to work through sides of Shakespeare plays and sonnets. The Monday, Wednesday meetings were specialized for individuals with Down syndrome ages 14+. DSL Engagement Director Carly Riggs said of the program, “It is incredible to see some of our most introverted and isolated members blossom through Shakespeare over a zoom screen. They are learning social skills, gaining confidence, and having fun with their friends all through this education service. You can see the spirit and enthusiasm in even the most introverted students!”
DSL members worked in large groups and smaller breakout groups on exciting acting warmups like ‘Compliments and Insults’, a hilarious exercise where students share Shakespearian themed compliments and insults with another individual to warm up their tongues, faces, and bodies, all while learning Shakespearian language. The program culminated in a final performance of the well known Romeo and Juliet balcony scene, where all the gentlemen recited Romeo’s lines and all the ladies responded with Juliet’s. Grant Gupton, a Louisville Kentucky member who participated, said his favorite parts were, “storytelling and using silky voices.” Libby Lohmeyer, a member from Southern Indiana who joined in enjoyed the classes a lot and said the sessions gave her the opportunity to “say lines and express emotions”.
Down Syndrome of Louisville has been partnering with Kentucky Shakespeare for about 6 years, and this special program has been on DSL’s wish list for some time. “We are so grateful for our continued partnership with Kentucky Shakespeare. The Kentucky Shakespeare staff is phenomenal and I cannot recommend their virtual programming enough”, says Riggs. 2020 looked very different for many of DSL’s members, and this six-week course was a refreshing end to a very crazy year. This VSA program was provided in 2019-2020 under a contract with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and also through continued generous funding from Arts For All Kentucky.