Shakespeare at Winedale Outreach, housed in the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas at Austin, is dedicated to sharing the resources of a distinguished UT program with the educators and children of Texas and anywhere beyond. We are the creators of “Shakespeare Kids,” a special UTOPIA website hosted by the College of Liberal Arts, Instructional Technology Services.
Shakespeare at Winedale Outreach began as a formal program within the UT College of Liberal Arts in 2003, thanks to a three-year grant from the Houston Endowment. Harold and Mark Metts were instrumental in opening the way for this breakthrough grant and it allowed us to begin bringing Shakespeare performance study to hundreds of schoolchildren across Texas, many of them in low-income or disadvantaged communities. Since then we have also received critical and ongoing support from the Texas Commission on the Arts, the David O. Nilsson Endowment for Excellence, the UT Department of English, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and many wonderful donors, including former students of Dr. Ayres and many dedicated supporters of the Shakespeare at Winedale program.
Every spring and summer for the past 35 years, the Shakespeare at Winedale program in the Department of English has brought University of Texas students from a variety of disciplines together for a challenging, rigorous course of learning unlike any other in the country. In the unique “classroom” of a century-old hay barn at Winedale -- a historic farming community 80 miles east of Austin – ideas about Shakespeare’s intentions and meanings are tested in action, through ensemble performance. Students open the plays up from the inside, on a wooden stage, attempting to delve deep into the impulses behind Shakespeare’s words.
In undergoing a process of creation and exploration, students are placed in the position of Shakespeare’s original players: How do you bring a character to life, beginning with only language, simple props, and a bare stage? How do you create a world out of words? How do you forge a true ensemble, where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts?
What results is a “sounding of the self,” an intense and sometimes life-changing confrontation and collaboration between the text and the player, the individual and the group, the plays and the place.
Through Shakespeare at Winedale Outreach, we seek to connect with educators and students in any way we can to share the experience, insights, and resources of the Winedale program with others.