Commonwealth Shakespeare Company gets $100,000 NEA grant

Commonwealth Shakespeare Company will receive a $100,000 matching grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, which the company — best-known for its free Shakespeare on the Common series — will use to fund a program called “Shakespeare OFF the Common.’’

“It’s a really big deal,’’ Commonwealth Shakespeare Company artistic director Steven Maler said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “The imprimatur of the NEA is such an extraordinary game-changer for CSC.’’

An NEA grant of $50,000 was also announced for East Somerville Main Streets, a nonprofit group, to fund a project called Storytellers as Placemakers, which seeks to “share the story of East Somerville via artist-led workshops, temporary public art installations, and storytelling performances,’’ according to an NEA press release.

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In addition, Double Edge Theatre Productions, based in Ashfield, will receive $25,000 for the Ashfield Living Culture Project, which will include site-specific performances and public art installations, according to the release.

The “Shakespeare OFF the Common’’ project, devised in collaboration with the Mayor’s Office of Arts, Tourism and Special Events, will unfold in three stages, and will revolve around a new troupe of young theater artists called “CSC II.’’

First, Boston public school students will be introduced to “Romeo and Juliet’’ via workshops and curricula. Then will come a production of “Romeo and Juliet’’ by CSC II at the Strand Theatre in Dorchester that will be open to Boston students and local residents. And then CSC II will trim down Shakespeare’s tragic love story to a one-hour version for a “Tour of the Parks’’ in 2015, during which the play will be performed in neighborhood parks, utilizing the sets and costumes from the full-length production. Performances will also take place at several venues near Boston Boys and Girls Clubs.

“The initiative is about expanding beyond the work we do on the Common,’’ Maler said. In a statement, Mayor Menino said: “Shakespeare OFF the Common will introduce a new generation of talented young people to the power of performance in bringing the written word to life at the Strand Theater.’’

The grant to Commonwealth Shakespeare Company was one of 59 NEA “Our Town’’ awards to organizations in 34 states, totaling $4.725 million, that aim to fund projects that “engage the arts to help shape the social, physical, and economic character of communities,’’ according to the NEA.

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