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Bard Core

What it's about. 
Shakespeare’s works are written in a surprisingly straightforward rhetorical code. However, most people are either unaware of that code or don’t know how to experience the power inherent in its structure. Matt Schwader, who has been studying, performing, and coaching Shakespeare for nearly 3 decades, takes participants on a pathway to cracking that code.

The course is designed for all levels of experience.
Actors with many years performing Shakespeare will find this course tremendously helpful in taking their work to the next level and those with even just the smallest taste of Shakespeare will find this work to be a handy and economical way of getting into the language and making powerful, confident choices. Though this is not primarily an “audition” workshop, it will certainly help with audition monologues and participants will walk away with a new piece for their portfolios. The primary end result is to provide tools for improving and building confidence in ALL of your future work. If you are looking for an efficient path to comprehending a piece of text and an opportunity to have a more fun and personally rewarding relationship with the works of William Shakespeare, this is the class for you!


The course is typically 4 classes over the span of 3 weeks. 
The first 2 sessions are back-to-back days. The next two sessions happen over the next two consecutive weeks. That said, Matt has adapted Bard Core for a variety of group formats, as well as for individual coaching.


The Bard Core Workshop was first conceived by Matt Schwader in 2006 in Chicago, IL. Having performed in countless productions of Shakespeare's work in some of the biggest Shakespeare companies in the country, Matt has had the extraordinary great fortune to work with and listen to some of the nation's top stage actors speak Shakespeare's language. He was amazed at how so many of them could be so remarkable on stage and yet they would fall just shy of truly extraordinary. As he listened and listened he began to see why. They had all done their due diligence in studying the words of their own text. They seemed to know what they were saying. They were good at landing intonations and rhythms that garnered laughs from the audience. They were emotionally connected to the material. Yet much of the time there seemed to be a disconnect between between actors. The energy was there, but the a through-line was missing. The audience was having to reboot their listening and processing almost every time a different actor would begin speaking. This awareness led Matt to re-examine the origins of Shakespeare's rhetorical style and how it relates directly with arresting the attention of the audience's ear. In 2013 he put began to put his research into practice with workshop laboratories, first out of his own home, then into college classrooms, and ultimately traveling to theatre companies around the country. Bard Core is the central component to his Shakespeare in Performance Class at Avila University in Kansas City, MO, where Matt is currently the Director of Performance Studies. He continues to deliver Bard Core workshops for professional actors, directors, students, and theatre companies around the country and is developing an online version of the course as well as a book detailing the steps and discoveries that are essential to the Bard Core method of approaching Shakespeare's text.

Matt Schwader as HAMLET, American Players Theatre, 2013

Matt Schwader as HAMLET, American Players Theatre, 2013. Photo by Carissa Dixon

Praise for BARD CORE and

Matt Schwader's work with Shakespeare

Matt Schwader coaching Shakespeare Workshop

"Matt Schwader knows Shakepeare. He is an accomplished Classical actor who has a unique curiosity about how language works.  He possesses experience, technique and the passion to make poetry come to life in an active and accessible way.  His intense desire to share this knowledge with actors who are interested in learning what it takes to do Shakespeare is a valuable gift to anyone who is lucky enough to take his workshop.  He will inform AND inspire…"


~ Brenda DeVita (Artistic Director, American Players Theatre)

"Matt Schwader brings an unbelievable amount of energy to the stage when he performs Shakespeare.  His work is always incredibly focused and contagious in the rehearsal hall and onstage."


 ~ Cree Rankin (Casting Director, Court Theatre, Chicago, IL)

"I would recommend this class to all actors with any level of Shakespeare experience.  Matt excels at meeting each person and group as they come, and encouraging the entire group, which then fuels each individual member.

I would say the overarching experience of the Bard classes is one of saying "yes."  Yes to trying new things or the stupid idea you never wanted to say out loud, yes to accepting new ideas and perspectives, yes to fully participating and engaging all aspects of your personality in each moment of a piece.  By the end of a weekend, my pieces were truly mine in an new way, and I gained a much broader and deeper range to my Shakespeare knowledge through everyone else's pieces.


Also, I had a hell of a great time."

~ Meg Harkins (former Bard Core Student)

“Scansion, antithesis, verse vs. prose, end- vs. mid-line shifts — most Shakespearian actor training focuses on giving the actor tools to clearly speak the Bard’s poetry. This is necessary work but it isn’t the whole picture. Through the study of rhetoric, Matt’s Bard Core workshops help actors to understand how the characters they play fit within the larger context of Shakespeare’s plays, thereby guiding actors to make stronger, textually-supported choices. This training is the natural next step for actors who seek to deepen their work with Shakespeare's text."

~ Jake Penner (former Bard Core Student)

"Not only is Matt Schwader a Shakespeare genius, he has the unique gift of being able to share his knowledge and skill with others in a way that makes student and teacher feel more like enthusiastic colleagues, exploring and working together."


~ Hillary Clemens
(Actor, Former Casting Director, Gift Theatre… & wife)

Matt Schwader coaching Shakespeare Workshop
Bard Core - Shakespeare Workshop. Table work.
Brittneylove Smith works a scene from Romeo and Juliet
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