If you can conquer Shakespeare, imagine what else you can do. We’ve seen our theatre festival give young people a real sense of self-worth, and the confidence to tackle difficulties in their lives,” says Kseniya Filinova-Bruton, the founder and CEO of the Shakespeare Schools Festival South Africa (SSFSA), now in its 12th year. Since 2009, the SSFSA has showcased 518 Shakespeare plays across South Africa, working with 10 866 learners from 597 schools, attracting nearly 30 000 audience members. This year it will take place from May to September in Cape Town, Johannesburg, George and Durban.
The festival is special for a number of reasons. It’s committed to reaching children with different educational needs, from diverse societal and economic backgrounds. It takes place in professional theatres across the country – places which many of the participants have never visited before, let alone performed in, like the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town, and the Playhouse in Durban. And, importantly, it’s not a competition. “We create a space where each child is celebrated. They’re not put into categories of first, second, third, etc. It doesn’t matter where the child comes from. This is where they’re embraced, where their confidence can grow,” says Kseniya.