Tonight, 13 actors will take the stage in Lenox, Ma., at Shakespeare & Company in “Henry V.'' Nothing so unusual in that, says the Boston Globe, except that these are teenagers, none older than 17, and they have been sentenced to perform this play. The show is the culmination of a five-week intensive program called Shakespeare in the Courts, a nationally recognized initiative celebrating its 10th year.
Berkshire Juvenile Court Judge Judith Locke has sent these adjudicated offenders – found guilty of such adolescent crimes as fighting, drinking, stealing, and destroying property – not to lockup or conventional community service, but to four afternoons a week of acting exercises, rehearsal, and Shakespearean study. More than 100 youths have participated since Kevin Coleman, the Shakespeare troupe's education director, and Paul Perachi, Locke's predecessor on the bench, started the program. Coleman is realistic about what Shakespeare can and cannot do. “I am going to say this right now, really clearly, on a billboard: This does not fix them,'' Coleman said. “Do they get back in trouble? Yes, they do. But maybe less often and maybe not as deep. This extreme experience that they're having starts to change them.''