The thing about running a theatre festival is how fast things go. Only last week we were opening the student matinees, with our local, age-appropriate production of Romeo and Juliet; last weekend the Ringplay production of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf revived itself for four final shows; and last night, Sizwe Banzi is Dead opened to an almost full house in the Black Box Theatre at the Dundas.It's a pretty busy time for me. For us in Ringplay Productions and for all of us at Shakespeare in Paradise. Ringplay has inherited a theatre, and the festival has developed a reputation. When we started, we had difficulty selling the idea of a Shakespeare festival to teachers and the schools. Not to all of them, you understand; but especially to the teachers in the government school system. Shakespeare had his own reputation--of being unintelligible and impossible to teach. We would get responses from teachers or, more often, from administrators like: "Our kids won't understand Shakespeare" (what they really meant was we don't understand Shakespeare) and "We're not studying that play so it's a waste of time for our students to be released". But this year? Our student matinees are pretty well sold out, and we have eight of them. And they're not just sold out to private school children. And the schools are not just bringing a single senior class. Schools--public schools and private schools--are booking sixty or ninety seats at a time.Of course, that could simply be the impact of Romeo and Juliet, which EVERYONE studies at some point in their lives, or it could be the residual effect of last year's The Legend of Sammie Swain. I'm hoping it's something more, though. I'm hoping that the fact that the festival is here, the fact it exists at all, is changing the culture of these students' world just a little bit.I happen to believe the idea that theatre and democracy are linked. The acting process itself is an exercise in empathy; you have to put away who you are and step into the shoes of another person. To do it right you have to inhabit that other person's world, at least for a time. You have to shoulder that person's burdens and endure that person's pain. And the process of being in a live theatre audience requires less passivity in theatre than it does for television or cinema; as an audience member, you share the same space and time as the performers, and there is an electricity that is generated when the theatre is good. A bad night out at the theatre is far worse than a bad night out at the movies because the engagement is different, and a good night out at the theatre is, as the Greeks understood, transformative.I'm hoping that that's what's happening for at least some of the students whose schools understand the wisdom of letting them attend the matinees.And so. Shakespeare in Paradise 2014 slides towards its second weekend. Sizwe Banzi kicks ass; For Colored Girls moved people to laughter and to tears; and the teenaged performers in Romeo and Juliet have come into their own, and are making their peers laugh out lout and, maybe, cry just a little. And I hope, I just hope, we are changing the world a tiny bit every time.