Young Shakespeare Workshop was founded by the distinguished stage director Edward Payson Call, initiating the workshop’s now twenty-four years of service to Seattle and surrounding communities. Ed fell in love with Shakespeare’s words as a teenager and wanted to pass this gift on to as many young people as he could, tuition-free. The First Year curriculum, built around the working sequence of sonnet, speech and scene, began during the summer of 1992. Ed also began experimenting with school workshop tours as well as a secondary program of performance called the Shakespearean Sideshow which performed in the University District Farmer’s Market.
In 1998, direction of the program was handed on to Darren Lay, a professional actor, director and teaching artist. In 1999 the Returning Student annual summer production changed from a miscellany of scenes and speeches into a full production of a touring Shakespeare play. School residencies branched from working with drama students to language arts students and teachers, and then to focusing on lower income high schools where theatre programs had been eliminated. Innovative and flexible language arts class residency models took shape as well as after-school productions of plays by Shakespeare and his contemporaries. This fall marks a further evolution. as for the first time a full semester credited class, Performing Shakespeare, will by offered at Cleveland H.S.
In 2005, TragiComedia, a pilot program in Spanish mirroring the work of Shakespeare but with Spanish and Mexican playwrights and poets, was launched. The program included works by Lope de Vega and Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz, and culminated in a community production (in 2007 at the Broadway Performance Hall) of Lope de Vega’s masterpiece Arauco domado, a play centered on the Spanish invasion of Mapuche land in 1550s Chile.