William Shakespeare

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Shakespeare is a staple in high school and collegiate classrooms, but the Bard isn’t always taught in elementary school.

Pittsburgh’s Classic Theater wants to change that, introducing kids to Shakespeare through week-long summer camps for children as young as 7.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Fifth grader Jaylen Hocker popped up from his front row seat at the O’Reilly Theater. He walked onto the stage, held up a hand to block the bright theater lights from his eyes and waited for the OK from a panel of judges before he began. 

“He hath disgraced me and hindered me half a million, laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies. And what’s his reason? I am a Jew," he said, reciting William Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice."

Ten years ago, Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks staged its first production honoring the famous bard.

The premiere show, “As You Like It,” spanned two weekends in November at Frick Park, and Jennifer Tober served as director, choreographer and even costume designer.

“It was a kind of simple production, I pulled costumes from my own closet, or people wore really kind of utilitarian things that they had, and it was kind of a low-fi, low budget production,” Tober said. “And now the company has grown so much, now we have not-for-profit status and our cast has grown.”

Four and a half centuries after he was born, the work of William Shakespeare continues to be performed across the globe, and Pittsburgh is marking the Bard’s birthday with a set of celebratory events.

Yvonne Hudson, artistic director with the art series Poet’s Corner, said they will be holding two events Wednesday to commemorate Shakespeare’s 450th birthday.