This was the first play I’ve done since elementary school, and while I loved doing plays then, I didn’t feel like I had the time and it fell off my radar rapidly. In hindsight, I should’ve scrounged up the time, since it was such an enjoyable experience, and felt less time consuming than I had expected. Learning Shakespeare and being able to see and recognize the issues of the past is very entertaining to me. Being part of this play [The Merchant of Venice] has really helped me feel part of a community, and being a person of mixed race/color means I don’t often have that. 
Thanks for this!
– August Jackson

The Merchant of Venice cast

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Shylock & Antonio from The Merchant of Venice 2019


Overall, my experience with the Young Shakespeare Workshop was very positive. When I first started this program, I never thought I would become the person I am today. Usually, I am very nervous in front of crowds and would not dare to even approach the intensity of this program’s nature. But after being introduced to this program and participating in it for 3 consecutive years, I have gotten over the fear of being “stage-fright” and with the support of my peers throughout the years, I was able to have fun and be myself. When I play a character, I immerse myself into the character and draw out his/her full emotional capabilities for the audience on performance day. Performance day, to me, is magical. The audience gets to see all of our hard work come together and the trust that is built over time has made it all possible. And at the end of the performance, when you hear waves of applause roaring louder than thunder, it makes you reflect on all of the hard work that you’ve done, what you could’ve done differently, knowing that each one of us put our best work on the stage. – Hoang Pham

Thanks for the past four years, they’ve been a blast. Let me know when you guys start back up at Cleveland! I’d love to stop by and say hi.
Regards, Timmy Yang

As You Like It cast

I joined the Young Shakespeare Workshop in the summer of 2012. I was fourteen, had just come out as gay and was struggling with school and depression. When my english teacher first told our class about the program I distinctly remember waiting for everyone in the class to leave for lunch before sneaking a flyer to inspect. The lives of fourteen year olds will always be weird and awkward, I guess. I didn’t really know what to expect from the Young Shakespeare Workshop when I did finally decide to sign up. I had recently seen a production of Romeo and Juliet. That production had been the first thing to move me in some time, and I was hungry for more. The Young Shakespeare Workshop seemed like a good place to feed myself and the program did not disappoint.

Throughout the workshop, Shakespeare was explored in every facet possible. We were taught how to love the words, how to understand them and mold them to fit our own tongues. There are all these wonderful hidden doors in Shakespeare’s words, all these rabbit holes just begging to be rediscovered by someone new. Throughout the program I kept running into the sentiment that Shakespeare is not necessarily about creating, but about revealing what is already there. I remember when I finally got to play Romeo, I was panicking. I was panicking because I’d never been in love before and I was certain I could not properly play Romeo if I’d never been in love. Darren took me aside and let me in on a secret. He told me that everything I need to fall in love with Juliet is in the words. I don’t have to suddenly fall in love to get experience, or force a feeling to get through a scene. It is all right in front of me, in the flow of the words, in the Elizabethan context hidden right behind the lines, and even in the exact syllables selected to confess Romeo’s love for Juliet. All I had to do was trust the words and fall into them.

The Young Shakespeare Workshop gave me a sense of agency I hadn’t even realized I was looking for. I knew the language of Shakespeare, but the world was only just beginning to open up to me. There’s still so much to discover. There is something so intoxicating and powerful in being able to command Shakespearean text. It’s freeing. The Young Shakespeare workshop also gave me an ability to discover my identity. There was never a single moment that I felt judged for who I was. I could try on new identities, new fashions, new everything year after year, and I would still always have a place there for me. The Young Shakespeare Workshop attracts wonderful people, whose voices don’t always ring out the same way in other contexts. Throughout my time in the program my confidence and self assurance grew. I’m twenty one now. I’ve recently come out as trans and going through a similarly shaky place as I was when I was fourteen. Only this time, I’m about to graduate with a theatre major and I know where I can go to rediscover my solace and my confidence. This is what The Young Shakespeare Workshop has given me. – Nay Helmeid

Shylock and Antonio


Laertes and Ophelia

After the performance, Javonn said that it was scary to perform but that it was also exhilarating. I felt glad, the emotional ride that Javonn had felt was the same as my own when I first started performing. It’s amazing at how many people are willing to try Shakespeare. The most unlikeliest of people show up and stay for years to come. We’ve built a community from the ground up.
This program is supportive of everyone. If you’ve never acted before, they’ll get you up to speed with everyone else. They’ll work till their brains are fried to get you where you wanna be. They’ll help you decipher the difficult text of Shakespeare and even ask for your input to know how you interpret it. This way you don’t just learn about it, you come to understand it. Putting up a show for people to see is truly a magical experience. This easy to get into program and its free access allows anyone to join the world of acting. – Brandon Tablit

I’m so thankful for this experience. I love people I got to work with, they were amazing and an amazing support system especially during some hard times; I’m glad I now call them friends. I am so thankful for the experience because I not only grew as an actor and learned more about the art. But it created great friends for me and helped shape parts of myself that of course makes me the person I am today.

Brittany Villars

As a parent, it would be impossible for me to describe the incredible contribution the Young Shakespeare Workshop has made to our family.

Emi Hosoda

So I had the best time of my life in the Young Shakespeare Workshop.  I love Shakespeare with all of me and I want to always be a part of it.


Each YSW year becomes a gathering of disparate teens who are able to transcend many of their differences in order to enthusiastically create together, to the benefit of the broader community.

Kim LarsonParent of a first year student (2010)

I doubt there is any organization in the United States that has been so successful at inspiring a life long love of theatre, performance, and the English language in young people as the Young Shakespeare Workshop.

Caitlin SteitzerMSW. Social WorkerNYC, NY