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Inaugural Wisconsin Shakespeare Festival offers students arts education outside the classroom

| Jenna Erickson, Music LA and Communications Major

With its inaugural season premiering the summer of 2023 at Pablo Center of the Confluence, preparation for the Wisconsin Shakespeare Festival is well underway. According to Pablo Center’s website, “the festival will feature an exquisite blend of artistic and educational endeavors, including a mainstage production of William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” a new works series, a young performers’ troupe, various workshop classes open to the public, and more.” As a founding partner of Pablo Center at the Confluence, UW-Eau Claire continues to offer students many opportunities through this partnership including educational instruction, performance in its state-of-the-art facilities, and even internship opportunities. 

The new and exciting Wisconsin Shakespeare Festival offers UWEC students once-in-a-lifetime hands-on opportunities in its foundations and operations. Last summer’s THEA 300 (Leadership in the Arts) class partnered with WSF to survey stakeholders and set program tenets and goals, and a handful of UWEC students, many of whom are in the Arts Administration certificate program and the Music & Theatre Arts Department, have been able to experience paid internships in the areas of marketing, event planning, development, programming, and more.

Jen Zwicky (she/her), department assistant and associate lecturer for the UWEC Music & Theatre Arts Department, took on the role of WSF Managing Director in late fall of 2022, and knew that her first priority would be to engage UWEC students in the formation of the Festival. “Wisconsin Shakespeare Festival has the opportunity to really pull arts education out of the traditional classroom setting and allow for students – of all ages! – to truly experience it in a new way,” she explains. An art administrator with a background in summer stock theatre as a stage manager, she knew it would be a heavy lift to get such a momentous undertaking going in such a short amount of time, which led her to recruit UWEC students to serve in essential roles in the Festival’s creation. “Our goal is for this Festival to be just as much, if not more so, ‘by the people’ than ‘for the people,’ so the student and community perspective was crucial to us in planning our inaugural season and setting the groundwork for what we want WSF to be and represent in the greater theatre community.”

Courtney Eberle (she/her) is a 4th-year student Music Liberal Arts student with a certificate in Arts Administration and has held the position of Development Intern throughout this past academic year in preparation for the summer of 2023 festival. Eberle went into this opportunity hoping to gain more experience in the development of fundraising, events, and learning how to build a program from the ground up. She states, “I am currently working on grant writing now, as many grants are due soon. As those due dates pass, my focus will begin to shift to helping plan out the fundraising events that I have been brainstorming in the past few weeks. Eventually, I will likely be helping make donor connections and organizing other engagement events to connect the community with our educational programs and shows.” All in all, Eberle has found this internship position very thrilling, as working on a new project allows her to be more creative with planning for the event because there is no “correct” way to be creative. “All in all, I find the variety of experiences in the development role to be exciting and offer a broad perspective.” 

Another UWEC student involved in the preparation of the festival, Abbey Joyner (she/her) a 4th-year Communications Major with a Music Minor and Arts Administration certificate speaks on her experience as the Education Programming Intern stating, “I planned some of the summer classes for the K-12 students in the Eau Claire and Altoona school districts. This includes a variety of theater-related classes such as playwriting, backstage business, fractured fairy tales, and others as well.” Joyner has been involved in theatre for a large portion of her life and wants to gain more experience with event planning and programming in the art education sector, with the goal of working in the arts industry in some capacity in the future. “My experience working with this internship has only been positive and I have really enjoyed the work I have been doing. I look forward to continuing learning and growing through this internship opportunity!”

More information about the festival can be found on Pablo Center’s website: