Bright Torches, a team of theater and education practitioners from the UK that specializes in working with youth around the globe, brought storytelling performances, workshops and puppetry to local classrooms, aimed at instilling in students a love for the works of Shakespeare.

Schoolchildren holding white handpuppets sit on brightly colored floormats while a man with a larger puppet talks to the class about Shakespeare.
Using puppet shows and other fun activities, Bright Torches aims to instill a love of The Bard in children. Credit: Courtesy photo

Bright Torches engaged with some 1,800 Santa Barbara Unified students during its week-long residency. The group’s goal is to show that Shakespeare is for everyone, and it has strategies and activities that cater to all learners, including emergent bilingual students, and students with learning differences.

Bright Torches plans to return to Santa Barbara in April to conduct follow-up workshops for students, and provide professional development opportunities for Santa Barbara Unified teachers.

“All of our work builds talk in the classroom and pushes young people to think critically and share their ideas confidently with others,” said Tom Davey, the founder of Bright Torches.

“Shakespeare’s stories are so powerful, and it’s thrilling to be unleashing that power in classrooms, to explore timeless themes afresh, and to hear the thoughts and feelings of young people,” he said. “Through all of our work, we hope to support teachers in providing a learning environment that has creativity and spontaneity at its heart.”

The residency is part of a broader initiative facilitated by the Léni Fund, a program of the Santa Barbara Education Foundation supporting and encouraging student participation and exposure to performing arts programs in Santa Barbara.

The Santa Barbara Education Foundation promotes private support of Santa Barbara’s public education system, serving some 12,500 students in 19 schools. For more, visit