The Stratford Shakespeare Festival at SUNY Plattsburgh

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival at SUNY Plattsburgh

Are you intrigued by the world of theatre and the works of Shakespeare? SUNY Plattsburgh’s Stratford Shakespeare Festival offers a unique and enriching experience that goes beyond the classroom. This festival is not just about enjoying performances; it’s a comprehensive journey into the art of theatre.

From watching live plays, including Shakespeare’s classics, to engaging in hands-on workshops, this festival is a haven for theatre enthusiasts. As a student looking to make your college application stand out, participating in such a culturally rich event can be both enlightening and rewarding.

In this blog, we’ll explore what the Stratford Shakespeare Festival entails and how it can enhance your educational journey and college prospects.

What is the Stratford Shakespeare Festival?

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival at SUNY Plattsburgh is a distinctive educational experience that combines the study of Shakespeare’s works with the excitement of live theatre. It includes a one-credit course offered each fall (ENG/THE 480), focusing on the history and impact of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.

Students partake in a trip to Stratford, Ontario, to watch various plays, including a Shakespearean play and a musical. The festival also features interactive elements like workshops in stage fighting or song and dance, tours of theatres and warehouses, and discussions with actors. This immersive experience is ideal for students interested in theatre, literature, and enhancing their college applications.

Who Can Participate in the Stratford Shakespeare Festival?

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival through SUNY Plattsburgh’s course ENG/THE 480 is open to students who are interested in deepening their understanding of theatre and Shakespeare. While the course is primarily designed for English and Theatre majors, it is not exclusively limited to them.

Students from different majors can also enroll and benefit from this unique educational experience. This inclusivity makes the festival an ideal opportunity for a wide range of students to explore the world of Shakespeare and professional theatre, enriching their academic and personal development.

high school students gather in front of the lockers

Where is the Stratford Shakespeare Festival?

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival is held in Stratford, Ontario, Canada. This location is renowned for its dedication to the arts, particularly Shakespearean theatre. Students participating in the festival will travel to this vibrant city to experience a range of theatrical performances, including Shakespeare’s plays and various other productions. This setting provides an authentic and immersive environment for students to experience professional theatre at its finest.

How Long Does the Program Last?

The Stratford Festival at SUNY Plattsburgh involves a trip to Stratford, Ontario, where students see five plays in three days, including at least one Shakespeare play and a musical. The festival also includes workshops and theatre tours. The duration of the festival is limited to these three days of activities.

This includes at least one play by Shakespeare and one musical. The trip is not just about watching plays; it also involves attending relevant workshops, like stage fighting or song and dance, and taking tours of the theatres or the costume and props warehouse. Additionally, students get the chance to engage in post-show chats with the actors.

This compact and immersive format is designed to provide a comprehensive and enriching experience in a brief span, making it an ideal educational trip for students. The duration varies annually because the allocated time to travel should also be considered.

Why Should I Participate in the Festival?

This festival is not just an ordinary educational excursion; it offers unique experiences that can have a lasting impact on your college journey and beyond. Let’s delve into the key reasons why you should consider being a part of this festival:

1. Exposure to Professional Theatre: Attending the festival allows you to witness professional theatre productions firsthand. You’ll see how plays, especially Shakespeare’s, come to life on stage, providing a deeper understanding of theatrical arts. This experience is invaluable for those interested in theatre, literature, or even general arts, as it offers a practical perspective that complements classroom learning.

2. Educational Enrichment: The festival enriches your education in unique ways. It provides a practical understanding of Shakespeare’s texts and theatrical production. By engaging with these plays in a live setting, you gain a more nuanced appreciation of the literature and its context. This hands-on experience complements your classroom learning, offering a different perspective that can enhance your analytical and critical thinking skills.

3. Networking and Career Opportunities: Participation in the festival allows you to meet professionals in the field of theatre. This can be a significant advantage if you’re considering a career in the arts. Networking with actors, directors, and other theatre professionals can provide insights into the industry and open doors for future opportunities.

4. Personal Growth and Confidence: Attending the festival and engaging in its various activities can significantly boost your confidence and interpersonal skills. Being in a new environment, interacting with peers and professionals, and discussing plays and performances can help you develop better communication skills and self-assurance.

5. Stand Out in College Applications: For students preparing college applications, involvement in such a festival can be a notable addition. It shows a commitment to extracurricular learning and a passion for the arts. Universities often look for well-rounded individuals with diverse interests and experiences, making your participation in this festival a noteworthy point on your application.

Overall, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival is an opportunity that goes beyond traditional learning, providing a platform for growth, networking, and enrichment that can be pivotal in your academic and professional life.

When is the Next Stratford Shakespeare Festival?

The next Stratford Shakespeare Festival is scheduled for the fall of 2024. This festival offers a unique opportunity for you to immerse yourself in the world of professional theatre.

Here, you will be immersed in a diverse theatrical experience, watching five plays in three days, including a Shakespeare play and a musical. Additionally, the festival includes interactive workshops in stage fighting or song and dance, providing a practical understanding of theatre arts.

You’ll also have the opportunity to explore behind the scenes with tours of the theatres and costume and props warehouses. Moreover, engaging in post-show discussions with actors offers a unique chance to learn directly from professionals. This festival is an excellent opportunity to experience professional theatre at its finest.

Group of three students

How Do I Apply to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival Program?

1. Understand the Program: The Stratford Festival is a unique educational experience offered by SUNY Plattsburgh. It involves a one-credit course, ENG/THE 480, where students study Shakespeare, the history of the Stratford Festival, and travel to Stratford, Ontario, to watch performances. The festival includes seeing plays, attending workshops, and engaging in post-show discussions​​​​.

2. Eligibility and Prerequisites: To be eligible for the Stratford Festival program, you need to be a student at SUNY Plattsburgh. A prerequisite for this course is ENG 101. This means you should have completed or be enrolled in ENG 101 at the time of applying for the festival​​.

3. Application to SUNY Plattsburgh: If you are not already a student at SUNY Plattsburgh, you will need to apply to the university first. SUNY Plattsburgh offers two application options for first-year students: the SUNY Application or the Common Application. 

It’s important to complete only one of these applications. There are no specific deadlines, but it’s recommended to submit applications by December 1st for the fall semester and November 1st for the spring semester​​.

4. Application Requirements: Along with the application, you will need to pay a $50 application fee and send an official high school transcript. First-year applicants should also submit at least one teacher or counselor recommendation and an essay. SAT/ACT scores are optional​​.

5. Register for the Course: Once you are admitted to SUNY Plattsburgh and have met the prerequisites, you can register for the ENG/THE 480 course. This registration will be part of your regular course registration process at the university.

6. Plan for Additional Fees: Be aware that there is a drama fee of $300.00 associated with the ENG 480/ENG 580 course, which covers the costs related to the Stratford Festival​​.

7. Preparation and Participation: After successfully registering for the course, you should prepare for the trip to Stratford, Ontario. This includes being ready for a comprehensive study of Shakespeare’s works, attending plays, workshops, and actively participating in post-show discussions.

This program is an incredible opportunity to immerse yourself in Shakespearean theatre and gain unique educational experiences outside the traditional classroom setting. For more specific details or any queries, you should contact SUNY Plattsburgh’s admissions office or the English department directly.

How Do I Make the Most Out of My Experience at the Stratford Festival​​?

Your time at the Stratford Festival is not just about entertainment; it’s an opportunity to immerse yourself in the world of theater, learn new things, and make meaningful connections. Enjoy every moment of it!

1. Explore Diverse Performances: The Stratford Festival is a treasure trove of artistic expression, showcasing a wide range of plays and performances. You’ll find everything from classic Shakespearean dramas to contemporary works. 

To truly enrich your experience, don’t limit yourself to just one type of show. Venture out of your comfort zone and attend different play genres. This will not only broaden your cultural understanding but also give you a more rounded festival experience. 

Engaging with various artistic styles can stimulate your own creativity and might even spark a newfound interest in a previously unfamiliar genre.

2. Participate in Workshops and Discussions: The festival isn’t just about watching performances; it’s also a learning experience. Take advantage of the workshops and discussions often held by seasoned actors, directors, and playwrights. 

These sessions can offer you valuable insights into the world of theater. They provide a unique opportunity to learn about the intricacies of performance, the nuances of character development, and the creative process behind staging a play. Your active participation in these forums can also be a great networking opportunity, allowing you to connect with professionals and fellow theater enthusiasts.

3. Reflect on the Performances: After watching a play, take some time to reflect on what you’ve seen. Think about the themes, the characters, and how the performance made you feel. You could even jot down your thoughts or discuss them with friends. 

This reflection process helps deepen your understanding and appreciation of the art. It also enhances your critical thinking skills, as you analyze and articulate your perspectives on various aspects of the performance. Engaging in such reflections can be a particularly enriching experience, especially if you’re considering a career in the arts or humanities.

4. Explore the Festival’s Social Aspect: The Stratford Festival is also a social event, where you can meet people who share your interests. Don’t hesitate to strike up conversations with fellow attendees. You might make new friends, learn about different perspectives, or even gain insights into other cultures. 

These interactions can significantly enhance your festival experience, making it more memorable. Plus, networking in such an environment can be beneficial for your future endeavors, whether in academics or your professional life.

students looking out into the university

How Do I Prepare for the Stratford Festival?

Another key to making the most out of the Stratford Festival is preparation. This festival is a chance for you to broaden your horizons and gain insights that could be beneficial for your college journey and beyond.

1. Research the Festival’s Line-Up and Schedule: Before you attend the Stratford Festival, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the event’s schedule and the various performances and workshops on offer. Check out the festival’s website or any brochures available. This preparation allows you to identify the plays, workshops, and seminars that interest you the most. 

Remember, some events might require prior registration or have limited seating, so it’s wise to plan ahead. Additionally, learning about the background of the plays and their historical context can greatly enhance your appreciation and understanding of the performances.

2. Develop an Understanding of Shakespeare and Theater: The Stratford Festival is renowned for its Shakespearean plays, so having a basic understanding of Shakespeare’s work can be highly beneficial. You don’t need to be an expert, but familiarizing yourself with the common themes, language, and historical context of Shakespeare’s plays can make the experience more enjoyable and enriching. 

You can start by reading summaries or watching film adaptations of some of the plays that will be featured at the festival. Also, try to get a grasp of theater etiquette and the norms of attending a live performance, as this will help you fully immerse in the experience.

3. Plan Your Visit Logistically: Attending a festival requires practical planning. You should consider accommodation options if you’re traveling from afar. Look into nearby hotels or student-friendly hostels. Also, think about how you’ll get to the festival each day, whether it’s walking, public transportation, or carpooling. 

Don’t forget to check the weather forecast and dress accordingly, as you might be outdoors for extended periods. Comfortable footwear is a must if you’ll be on your feet for most of the day. Lastly, ensure you have enough funds for tickets, food, and other expenses.

4. Engage with the Festival Community: The Stratford Festival is not just about watching plays; it’s a community event where you can meet people with similar interests. Take the opportunity to engage with other attendees, artists, and scholars. You can join discussions and forums, if available, to share your thoughts and learn from others. 

Social media can also be a great tool to connect with fellow festival-goers before, during, and after the event. Engaging with the community can enhance your experience, provide networking opportunities, and deepen your understanding and appreciation of the arts.

How Can This Program Help With My College Admissions Experience?

Participating in the Stratford Festival offered by SUNY Plattsburgh can be a significant asset in your college admissions journey. This program isn’t just about enjoying theatrical performances; it’s an opportunity for personal growth, learning, and showcasing your diverse interests to college admission committees. Let’s explore in detail how this experience can benefit your college admissions process.

Firstly, involvement in the Stratford Festival demonstrates your engagement with cultural and artistic activities, which is a valuable aspect of your college application. Colleges look for well-rounded students who not only excel academically but also show a keen interest in extracurricular activities.

By participating in this festival, you’re not just a spectator but an active participant in a rich cultural event. This involvement speaks volumes about your willingness to engage with and appreciate complex artistic expressions, a trait that many colleges value in their prospective students.

Moreover, the Stratford Festival offers an excellent platform for intellectual growth. Engaging with Shakespeare’s plays and other theatrical performances can enhance your critical thinking and analytical skills. 

When you watch a play, you’re not just passively observing; you’re interpreting dialogue, understanding character motivations, and analyzing themes. These skills are directly transferable to your academic work, especially in subjects like English literature, history, and the arts. Demonstrating your ability to think critically and analyze complex works can make your college essays and interviews more impressive.

Another significant aspect is the development of your communication skills. The festival provides numerous opportunities for discussions and interactions with peers, performers, and scholars. Engaging in these conversations allows you to articulate your thoughts and opinions effectively. Colleges often look for students who can communicate clearly and confidently, as these skills are crucial for success in both academic and social settings on campus.

Furthermore, the Stratford Festival can help you develop a unique perspective that can be reflected in your college application essays. Many students struggle to find compelling topics for their essays, but your experiences at the festival can provide rich material. 

Whether it’s a particular play that moved you, a workshop that challenged your thinking, or an interaction that left a lasting impression, these experiences can form the basis of a powerful and personal college essay. An essay that draws on these unique experiences will stand out, showcasing your depth of character and your ability to reflect on your experiences.

Additionally, the festival is a great opportunity for networking and mentorship. Meeting professionals in the arts, as well as fellow enthusiasts, can lead to meaningful connections. These connections might offer you guidance, advice, or even recommendations, which can be beneficial in the college admissions process. Networking can also open doors to internships, volunteer opportunities, and other extracurricular activities that can strengthen your college application.

Lastly, your participation in the Stratford Festival shows your ability to manage time and prioritize. Balancing your academic responsibilities with your involvement in the festival demonstrates your time management skills, a quality that colleges highly value in their students. It shows that you can handle the rigors of college life, where you will need to balance academic work with extracurricular activities and social engagements.

University students on their way to class

Developing Essential Skills Through the Festival

Participating in the Stratford Festival can be an invaluable experience for you as a student, offering numerous opportunities to develop essential skills that are crucial both academically and in your personal growth.

The festival is not just about appreciating arts and culture; it’s a platform for honing a variety of skills that are beneficial in various aspects of life. Let’s delve into how the festival contributes to developing these skills.

1. Critical Thinking and Analytical Skills: The core of the Stratford Festival is its focus on theater, particularly Shakespearean plays, which are renowned for their complexity and depth. As you engage with these plays, you’re required to interpret intricate narratives, understand nuanced character developments, and unravel the themes and symbols woven into the scripts. This process naturally enhances your critical thinking and analytical skills. 

You learn to look beyond the surface, question underlying messages, and appreciate the interplay between different elements of the play. These skills are not only invaluable in academic settings, particularly in subjects like literature, history, and social studies, but they also foster a more profound understanding of the world around you.

2. Communication Skills: The festival is a social event as much as it is cultural. It presents numerous opportunities for you to interact with peers, artists, and experts in the field. Through these interactions, you can develop your communication skills. Whether it’s discussing a play, sharing opinions, or simply networking, you learn how to articulate your thoughts clearly and listen actively. 

These skills are essential for success in both personal and professional realms. Good communication skills can enhance your relationships, boost your academic performance, and, later on, be key to your professional success.

3. Empathy and Cultural Awareness: The themes explored in the plays at the festival often deal with universal human experiences, allowing you to connect with characters and stories from different times and cultures. This exposure can significantly enhance your empathy and cultural awareness. 

Understanding diverse perspectives, empathizing with characters from different backgrounds, and recognizing the universality of certain experiences are skills that are increasingly important in our interconnected, multicultural world. These skills can help you navigate diverse social settings more effectively and contribute to your ability to work and thrive in diverse teams.

4. Time Management and Organization: Attending a festival requires you to manage your time effectively, especially when there are multiple shows and events you want to participate in. You learn to plan your day, prioritize activities, and make decisions about how best to use your time. 

These time management and organizational skills are crucial for academic success and are highly valued in the workplace. Being able to juggle different tasks, meet deadlines, and maintain a good balance between various responsibilities is a skill that will benefit you throughout your life.

5. Creative Thinking and Problem-Solving: The artistic environment of the festival stimulates creative thinking. You’re exposed to innovative storytelling, unique interpretations of classic plays, and creative expressions in various forms. 

This can inspire you to think creatively and approach problems in novel ways. Creative thinking is not just limited to artistic endeavors; it’s a skill that can lead to effective problem-solving in academic subjects, help you generate new ideas, and approach challenges from different perspectives in your future career.

6. Networking and Relationship Building: The festival also provides a platform for networking. You have the chance to meet people with shared interests, professionals in the arts, and perhaps even mentors. Building a network can be invaluable for your future, whether it’s for academic collaborations, internships, or career opportunities. The ability to build and maintain relationships is a crucial skill in any professional field.

7. Adaptability and Flexibility: Finally, attending an event like the Stratford Festival teaches you adaptability and flexibility. Things may not always go as planned – events might be rescheduled, weather conditions might change, or you might encounter unexpected opportunities. 

Learning to adapt to changing situations and being flexible in your plans are important life skills. They help you deal with uncertainties and changes, both in your academic life and beyond.

The Stratford Festival provides you with a unique opportunity to develop a range of essential skills – from critical thinking and communication to empathy, time management, creative thinking, networking, and adaptability. 

These skills will not only enhance your academic performance but also prepare you for a successful and fulfilling personal and professional life. The festival is a fertile ground for growth, and by embracing the opportunities it offers, you can significantly enrich your skillset and personal development.

What are the Societal and Industry Relevance of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival?

This festival isn’t just an isolated academic or cultural event; it plays a significant role in broader societal contexts and has implications in various industries. Let’s explore these aspects in detail to understand how this program can impact you and the society around you.

Firstly, the Stratford Festival serves as a vital platform for preserving and promoting cultural heritage, particularly in the realm of theater and literature. In today’s fast-paced world, where digital media often dominates, traditional forms of art like theater can struggle to maintain their relevance and audience. 

By participating in or even just attending the festival, you’re contributing to the sustenance and appreciation of these art forms. This is important because theater and literature are not just entertainment; they’re mediums through which important societal issues are reflected and critiqued. They offer insights into human nature, societal structures, and historical contexts, playing a crucial role in educating and informing the public.

Furthermore, the festival’s focus on Shakespearean works and other classical theater pieces provides an educational experience that transcends traditional classroom learning. These plays often deal with themes that are timeless and universal, such as love, power, justice, and human frailties. 

By engaging with these themes, you’re not only enhancing your understanding of literature but also gaining insights into human behavior and societal dynamics. This understanding is invaluable, as it fosters empathy and a deeper appreciation of diverse perspectives, which are essential qualities in today’s increasingly globalized and multicultural world.

In terms of industry relevance, the Stratford Festival is a significant contributor to the arts and entertainment industry. It provides a platform for artists, actors, directors, and other professionals to showcase their talents. This is crucial in an industry where exposure and networking are key to professional growth. 

For you as a student, witnessing or participating in this process can offer a glimpse into the workings of the arts industry. It can also open up opportunities for internships or collaborations, providing you with practical experience and industry connections that can be beneficial in your future career.

Moreover, the festival has an economic impact as well, contributing to local and regional economies. Events like these attract visitors, generate employment, and stimulate spending in various sectors such as hospitality, tourism, and retail. Understanding this economic aspect can give you a broader perspective on how cultural events tie into larger economic ecosystems and the importance of supporting such initiatives.

The Stratford Festival also plays a role in fostering community engagement and social cohesion. It brings together people from diverse backgrounds, united by their love for theater and literature. 

This communal experience is important in a society where digital isolation is increasingly common. The festival offers a space for communal learning, discussion, and celebration of cultural achievements. For you as a student, being part of such a community can be enriching and can provide a sense of belonging and connection to a larger cultural narrative.

Lastly, the festival’s commitment to educational outreach and youth programs can have a long-lasting impact on younger generations. These programs often aim to introduce children and young adults to theater and literature, fostering a love for the arts from an early age. 

By participating in or supporting these initiatives, you’re helping to nurture future generations of artists, scholars, and culturally aware individuals. This is crucial for the continued relevance and evolution of the arts and humanities in society.

Cheerful Indian asian young group of college students or friends laughing together in campus

Effective Time Management Strategies at the Festival

1. Create a Detailed Schedule: Before the festival begins, spend time creating a detailed schedule. Look up the festival’s program online and note the timings of plays, workshops, and other events you’re interested in. Don’t forget to factor in buffer times for moving between venues, as well as breaks for meals and rest. By having a plan, you avoid the risk of double-booking yourself or missing out on something important. 

It’s also a good idea to prioritize events, marking those you absolutely don’t want to miss. Remember, it’s okay if you can’t attend everything; focus on quality over quantity to ensure you fully enjoy and learn from each event.

2. Use Technology Wisely: Leverage technology to keep your schedule organized. Utilize calendar apps on your phone where you can set reminders for upcoming events. Many festivals also have their own apps or social media pages where they post updates, which can be very useful for last-minute schedule changes or additional events. 

However, be mindful of the time you spend on your phone during the festival. Constantly checking messages or social media can distract you and detract from your festival experience.

3. Practice Decision-Making Skills: With multiple events happening simultaneously, you’ll often need to make quick decisions about what to attend. When faced with a choice, consider what aligns best with your interests and what you stand to gain from each option. 

If two must-see events clash, see if one of them is happening on another day or at a different time. Learning to make quick, informed decisions is a valuable skill that will serve you well beyond the festival.

4. Network Efficiently: Festivals are great for networking, but you need to do it efficiently. Identify people you’d like to meet – such as artists, scholars, or fellow enthusiasts – and where you’re likely to find them. 

Prepare a short introduction about yourself and think of a few questions or conversation starters in advance. Networking shouldn’t be about meeting as many people as possible; instead, focus on making meaningful connections, even if that means spending more time with fewer people.

5. Stay Flexible and Adaptive: While having a plan is important, be prepared to adapt it as needed. Unexpected opportunities may arise – perhaps an impromptu discussion with a performer or an invitation to a special workshop. 

Being too rigid with your schedule might mean missing out on these unique experiences. Balance is key: stick to your schedule for the most part, but allow yourself the flexibility to take advantage of spontaneous events or to simply take a break if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Remember, effective time management at the festival is about finding a balance between being organized and being open to new experiences. By planning ahead, using technology wisely, making informed decisions, networking efficiently, and staying adaptable, you’ll be able to make the most of your time at the Stratford Festival.

Final Thoughts

As we conclude our exploration of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival at SUNY Plattsburgh, it’s clear that this event is more than just a series of performances. It’s an immersive educational experience that brings Shakespeare’s works and the world of professional theatre to life. 

For students aiming to add depth to their college applications, this festival offers a unique opportunity to gain insights into literature and theatre production. Remember, engaging in such enriching experiences can set you apart in your college journey. 

So, take this chance to immerse yourself in the magic of Shakespeare and the dynamism of live theatre. The Stratford Festival is more than just an event; it’s a gateway to a world of learning and artistic exploration.

It is important to have all the necessary information before making any decision. AdmissionSight is always here to help you with any questions or concerns. We have over ten years of experience helping students successfully navigate the challenging admissions process.

Consult with AdmissionSight and find out how we can help you get into the school of your choice by ensuring that you are fully informed and prepared for the application process. We will work with you to develop a personalized plan that meets your specific needs and goals. We will also provide you with access to our team of experts who can help you with everything from choosing the right schools to writing your essays.

Don’t let the admissions process overwhelm you. Contact AdmissionSight today and let us help you achieve your dreams.


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