Young performers premiere talents at Camp Shakespeare

Campers, ranging in age from 9 to 18, learn acting skills from classically trained Shakespearian actors, an opportunity that keeps many of the camp’s participants coming back year after year.

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“What makes our camp so unique is not only that we’re teaching Shakespeare in classical text, but that the curriculum the students are learning is at a university-level caliber of training,” camp director Vanessa Buono said. “In terms of learning movement, classical text analysis and voice techniques, these are things that most of the teachers including myself learned in our graduate MFA programs.”

Campers rotate roles throughout the program, giving everyone the opportunity to play a big part in the myriad shows and scenes at the camp.

“You’re never going to come to our camp and one kid will be Romeo and one kid be spear carrier No. 2,” Buono said.

The camp is split into four groups by age level, with each group learning more advanced techniques.

Groundlings, campers ages 9 to 11 years old, learn the language of Shakespeare, playing improvisational games and movement exercises taken from scenes in different plays.

Young Performers, ages 12 to 14, perform an hour-long Shakespearian comedy at the end of the two weeks.

The Teen Ensemble, ages 15 to 18, learn movement and in-depth voice work, which culminates in a one-hour performance at the end of the program.

Camp Shakespeare has four, two-week sessions beginning June 20. Each session costs $695, with a three-week advanced camp running at $995. Registration is available online at www.theatre.org/education or by phone at 202-547-5688.

Sarah Hirsch, 14, has been going to Camp Shakespeare for three years. The aspiring actress said the experience has been valuable for her career goals.

“Even if theater is not what you want to do, this camp is an amazing opportunity,” Hirsch said.

She added that the program demystifies the language of Shakespeare and could convert those who ardently dislike his work into fans.

“This camp completely breaks down the Bard’s language for you and by the time you’re done you’ll be wanting to go to Barnes & Noble and pick up every Shakespeare play they have,” Hirsch said.

An advanced camp for returning campers is available by audition only and gives campers the chance to develop one character over the course of the camp to hone their acting skills.

Charlotte Guthery, 16, has been attending Camp Shakespeare since she was in third grade, and is now a participant in the advanced camp. She said she’s learned more about acting in the camp sessions she’s attended than she has at any other acting class.

“Personally I have acted in four professional productions, two by the Shakespeare Theatre, and I can accurately say that this camp has single-handedly prepared me for all of my professional jobs,” Guthery said.

Danny Crane, an instructor who teaches campers in the advanced program, said it’s a rewarding experience to see his students grow and improve, both in their acting skills and their confidence.

“They work incredibly hard, and oftentimes do not fathom how they will accomplish the seemingly monumental task of performing a Shakespeare play,” Crane said. “In the end their confidence rises, their skill improves, and they make lasting friendships. It is a profoundly rewarding experience for all of us.”