The Puck Project
A Shakespeare Performance and Ethics Program for Kids
The Puck Project is a Shakespeare performance and ethics program for K-6 students. Taking its inspiration from other community-based Shakespeare programs, such as Shakespeare Behind Bars and Feast of Crispian, The Puck Project is, at its core, committed to dissolving the arbitrary boundary between scholarship and civic engagement. My collaborators, Kelly Duquette and Mary Taylor Mann, and I found our community partner in Nicholas House, a shelter and support network for families facing homelessness in metro Atlanta. Each summer, Nicholas House hosts a kids’ summer camp, Camp Nicholas, and invites members of the community and local organizations to lead various educational and recreational activities. As a part of Camp Nicholas, The Puck Project developed a four-week curriculum to provide a space of learning, growth, and creativity to children through the works of Shakespeare. We also sought to create a space in which children were encouraged to confront the ethical questions present in the dramatic text itself, but more importantly the ethical dilemmas that surface in the act of performance. In order to foster this move from creativity to ethical deliberation we engaged an environment of “play.” Within the context of play, actors become collaborators, challenging themselves and their peers to navigate various ethical scenarios. We distilled our purpose into a three-part goal: first, taking seriously the ethical toolkit one acquires when embarking upon a journey of performance, actors are then invited to practice empathetic imagination, which translates into emotional intelligence. The Puck Project ultimately arose out of a desire to incorporate public scholarship into our graduate study, inspiring us to seek and secure funding for a community-based project through the Jones Program in Ethics at Emory University. All too often, graduate study is a self-centered endeavor that reifies the continued isolation of the academy from its wider communities.
After a hiatus during the height of the pandemic, we returned to Nicholas House in summer 2022 for a week-long iteration of The Puck Project. Over the years, the program has been generously sponsored by The Jones Program in Ethics, Emory's English Department, The Hatchery, Laney Graduate School, and the Mellon Ph.D. Interventions Grant.