This video and corresponding article are part of ArtsWave’s web series, "Better Know Cincy's Arts," giving a closer look at the organizations that gifts to ArtsWave support. For more episodes, subscribe to our YouTube channel

Cincinnati has more arts than you can “Shake-a-speare” at (Get it? …Insert groan noise here). One standout among these is the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company (CSC), affectionately known as Cincy Shakes. The theater company exemplifies the rich cultural tapestry of Over-the-Rhine and offers much more than just performances through support from ArtsWave. 

"Cincy Shakes is a theater organization that serves the Cincinnati Community with Shakespeare's plays and American Classics," says CSC Director of Education Candice Handy, explaining that their mission goes far beyond performances. “We have a booming education program and a new play development program to discover the new plays that will become classics.”  

A big part of their identity as an organization is bringing up the next generation of theater-lovers. Their educational matinees, affectionately called "ed-mats," are a cornerstone of this community engagement. Performances happen on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, bringing a diverse set of students from across the region into immersive theatrical experiences. 

Cincy Shakes not only entertains but also inspires the younger generation. Handy recalls a letter from a student after seeing the performance of Julius Caesar where Handy played “Cassius,” originally written as a male role, “I got a letter from a female-identifying student, and she was like 'wow, like I had no idea that Cassius could be that fun, and entertaining' and she said it also really opened her eyes to something about her identity, getting to see me do a traditional man's part that is very strong."  

Cincy Shakes receives yearly operational support from ArtsWave, which is what allows them to offer educational matinees at low or no cost to schools. Programs like Project 38, which serves 38 schools, many lacking resources for arts programs, would be vastly different without ArtsWave’s support. Handy notes, "Without funding from ArtsWave, we wouldn't be able to provide the educational matinee prices at such a low cost. I mean, some of the schools get to come for free!" 

Cincy Shakes is more than just a theater; it’s a community pillar fostering education, inspiration, and artistic growth. Whether you're a theater enthusiast or just curious about the arts in Cincinnati, this company is worth a visit.