Behind the scenes at Orlando Shakespeare Theater

These Kids Have Heart

The audience is still standing and clapping even though the show ended five minutes ago. Many never thought they would see their child as the lead of a play…enthusiastically taking on public speaking…effortlessly interacting with other kids…while performing on a professional stage!

For twenty middle and high school students, Shakespeare with Heart is a life-changing experience occurring each summer at Orlando Shakespeare Theater. For ten years, United Cerebral Palsy of Central Florida, the Exceptional Education Department of UCF, and the Orlando Shakespeare Theater have partnered to offer this one of a kind program. Teens with an array of developmental challenges including Cerebral Palsy, Down syndrome, autism, or other learning and emotional problems join their peers to produce an abridged Shakespeare play in ten days. Brought together through their common love of theater, the transformation of students in just two weeks is incredible and visible.

During this ten day process, students audition for roles, rehearse their scenes, and perform the show. Each actor is challenged to bring their assigned character(s) to life using their own unique talents and abilities. The Tempest has been selected for performance this summer. Although, instead of being stranded on an island, the characters will be under the Big Top, amongst clowns, acrobats, and wild animals!

Arthur Louv is a big fan of the program. His grandson Cameron has participated in Shakespeare with Heart for three summers. “This program has given him a love for theater, as well as an appreciation of Shakespeare and his plays, characters, and timeless themes.” He believes his grandson’s experiences at Orlando Shakes will stay with him for the rest of his life. Arthur also notes that the program has helped build Cameron’s confidence. “He recently spoke in public to an audience and used many techniques he learned at Shakespeare with Heart. He broke a leg.”

Since participating last summer, camper Lexie Hoag has caught the theater bug and has joined the Orlando Shakes team as a Development and Marketing intern. She fondly remembers her time as part of the Shakespeare with Heart group and how those friendships are still strong today. “I check in on my friend’s Facebook to see what new adventures life has in store for her. And I recently went and saw another friend perform in her high school’s play.”

For our students, their ability to participate is thanks to donors like you. Donations help to keep tuition fees low, production values high, and even allow for scholarships for students in financial need. Thanks to your support, this program has become wildly successful, and has a waitlist full of eager participants. Hundreds of young people have been helped by this wonderful program over the years. Your support is invaluable as we could not bring such joy to our campers without you. We invite you to attend our Shakespeare with Heart production of The Tempest on Friday, July 24 at 7:00 p.m. in the Margeson Theater.  Come join us and see the tremendous impact you have on our young actors. We hope you can make it!


– Orlando Shakespeare Theater’s Development Department


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