"During the rehearsal process, I learned we had to work
together to make our play perfect." – Student, P.S. 180

"Each time I participate in the festival, I learn new avenues to unlock my students' creativity." -Teacher, Fordham High School for the Arts

"It was one of the most rewarding things
I've ever done in my classroom." -Teacher

"I've learned that theater can make a big difference in someone's life." -Student

"It was entirely our own, we created it." -Student

"I enjoyed how the play can be hilarious and sad and epic." -Student

"It felt like I was doing a piece of history." -Student


NYC Student Shakespeare Festival

CLICK HERE to Register for the 2019 Festival

Do you want to have a transformative experience in the classroom? Do you want creative, interactive ways to address the Common Core and NY State Arts Standards? Do you want to see students' ideas and energies engaged in constructive ways? Do you want to bring the arts back into your school? Are you PASSIONATE or TERRIFIED or CLUELESS about SHAKESPEARE?

Founded in 1993 on the belief that Shakespeare is best learned in the act of performing his words, CAT's NYCSSF has provided over 10,000 young people and 400 teachers with a chance to create their own work of original theatre using Shakespeare's text and to perform their work on an off-Broadway stage.  

Now under the artistic direction of Jon Stancato (The Stolen Chair Theatre Company), NYCSSF is a unique opportunity for educators and students to celebrate the raw power, dazzling beauty, and timeless, universal themes of Shakespeare's work. 

Find out more:

New York City Student Shakespeare Festival Brochure

2015 NYCSSF Yearbook

2014 NYCSSF Yearbook

Click here for a map of the schools that have participated over the past 20 years!

NYCSSF in CAT's blog.

NYCSSF in the "Shakespeare in the City" blog.

"I learned that if I try something new and work on it, I can make a beautiful thing."

-2012 Participating Student

"CAT's Festival was one of the most rewarding things I've ever done in my classroom."

"I was thoroughly impressed by CAT's training, the support from the teaching artists, and the way my students grew as a result of their experience."

"I've been with the Shakespeare Festival for many years, and this has been the best year yet! It amazes me that the Professional Development days and the Teaching Artists just keep getting better and better. There's always more for me to learn and try out with my students." 

- Participating Teachers


CUNY-CAT is an approved New York State Education Department Sponsor of Continuing Teacher & Leader Education (CTLE).

CUNY-CAT is an approved NYC DOE Vendor.



NYCSSF is supported, in part, by public funds from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council, and from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Participating groups receive:

  • Professional Development Fridays for Teachers - 10-15 hours of interactive, hands-on professional development that will prepare you to lead your students in the creation of an original work of theatre using Shakespeare's text. Fridays at CAT in the winter & early spring, 9AM-1PM; breakfast and CUNY Certificate of Participation provided. CUNY-CAT is an approved New York State Education Department Sponsor of Continuing Teacher & Leader Education (CLTE). CUNY-CAT is an approved NYC DOE Vendor.

  • In-Class Mentoring - A representative from the festival's team of Shakespeare experts will visit your classroom three times to provide you and your students with support and guidance as you develop your scene for the Festival. 

  • Culminating Performance - In mid-late April, you and your students will join groups from across the City as you all present your 5-8 minute scenes at the historic off-Broadway Lucille Lortel Theatre. During your Festival day (9Am-2PM), you and your students will also be treated to Shakespeare-themed games and activities, feedback by teaching artists and peer groups, and official recognition of the strengths or innovations of your work.  

  • Materials - You will receive comprehensive resource guides and thorough lesson plans from each professional development. Students and teachers will receive gifts, such as Shakespeare texts and wristbands or other swag. All involved will receive CUNY Certificates of Participation. The Festival experience will be archived through video and photos so that you to share your successes with your students and colleagues.


  • To provide an original and compelling way for educators to strengthen their ability to address English Language Arts Common Core Standards, NYC Blueprint Benchmarks for Teaching and Learning in the Arts and NY State Arts Standards.  (Click here to view NYCSSF standards)
  • To provide ELL and special-needs teachers with a means to offer high-expectation subject matter and strengthen students' abilities in literacy and theatre skills.
  • To support the integration of student-centered learning strategies into the participating teachers' fundamental approach.
  • To provide teachers of grades 2-12 with the tools to overcome discomfort and develop strategies for integrating Shakespeare (and other "difficult" works) into the classroom.
  • To complement existing school drama programs and fill a need in schools that do not have them – by providing opportunities for students to play active roles onstage, in scene development, and in stagecraft.
  • To bring a worldly and high-caliber level of theatrical knowledge to participating schools.

Click here to see the 2015 NYCSSF Yearbook

2014 Festival Yearbook

2013 Festival Yearbook

2012 Festival Yearbook

“I can’t even quantify how much doing the Shakespeare festival has developed me as a teacher. The process is completely student led and one of the most rigorous activities I’ve ever done with students. Adults would struggle in the process and the fact that students create and perform a piece from scratch is beyond any Common Core standard of rigor.”
- Participating High School Teacher

FY2017 Impact:

  • 633 2nd-12th Grade Students
  • 24 Teacher participants
  • 22 Classes from 17 citywide participating Schools
  • 102 Shakespeare in the Classroom Workshops
  • 3 all-day Professional Development Workshops
  • 3 Culminating Festival Days at the Lucille Lortel Theatre

94% of participating students reported that, after participating in the program, they are more familiar with the elements of theatre, have a better understanding of Shakespeare, are more comfortable listening to the ideas & opinions of others and working together to solve problems.

Teachers report that CAT’s Shakespeare program helps them discover new ways of using drama as a teaching tool.  They also note students’ improvement in key literacy, critical thinking, and social-emotional skills: 

  • Listening
  • Speaking
  • Reading
  • Observation
  • Critical thinking
  • Ability to work well in groups
  • Interpreting
  • Self-expression

Click here to view NYS Arts and Common Core Standards, as well as Blueprint Benchmarks attributed to NYCSSF activities


Click here to see the 2015 NYCSSF Yearbook

2014 Festival Yearbook

2013 Festival Yearbook

2012 Festival Yearbook

  • Leadership
  • Collaboration

  • Communication
  • Exploration of love, conflict, anger, and other emotions

  • Understanding and appreciating dramatic text


Jonathan Stancato
Festival Director

Called "one of the most daring and imaginative directors of his generation" by NYtheatre.com's Martin Denton, Jonathan teaches his distinctive approach to physical theatre to over a thousand students each year. He is one of New York's only maestros of Commedia dell'Arte, which he has taught at Yale, the European College of Liberal Arts (Berlin), Bard College, Princeton High School, Fordham High School for the Arts, Brooklyn Theatre Arts, and Bergen County Academy, among others, and he will be presenting master classes on the technique at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London this summer. He has trained with Joseph Chaikin, Thomas Richards and the Grotowski Workcenter, Anne Bogart and the SITI Company, the Royal Shakespeare Company, Antonio Fava, Chris Bayes, the Roving Classical Commedia University, and the San Francisco Mime Troupe, as well as in the techniques of Jacques Lecoq. Over the past ten years, Jon has worked for the CUNY/Creative Arts Team New York City Student Shakespeare Festival as a commentator, teaching artist, master teacher, and, now, artistic director.  When he's not teaching, he directs for Stolen Chair, his non-profit theatre company which has created and produced its genre-bending original work in NYC for ten seasons, most recently presenting THE MAN WHO LAUGHS, a live silent film for the stage called “ingenious" by the New York Times and nominated for three Drama Desk awards, including “Unique Theatrical Experience.”


Krista Fogle
Communications & Marketing Manager
NYCSSF Administrator


© 2019 Creative Arts Team

101 W. 31st Street, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10001 | (212) 652-2800 | info@creativeartsteam.org

With a little help from Blueprint Interactive