Poverty and Privilege: Shakespeare in the Mountains
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This essay explores the impact that a Shakespeare festival can have on an economically depressed rural community. Frostburg State University, located in one of the poorest counties in Appalachian Maryland, hosts a Shakespeare festival every spring, a collaborative outreach project involving both university and high school students in western Maryland, southern Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. This essay places Frostburg’s Shakespeare Festival within the larger context of the role Shakespeare has played in American life, especially in rural and culturally isolated regions of the country, and argues that Shakespeare’s immense power as a marker of cultural capital, his privileged place in a contested canon, can have great value for communities that are lacking in privilege.