Memphis Commercial Appeal - Printer-friendly story

Company offers summer of Shakespearean drama

By Jonathan Devin

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Soon a number of middle and high school students may be asking friends, "What wilt thou do for thy summer vacation?"

This is the third year that Tennessee Shakespeare Company, the four year-old professional theater organization based in Germantown, has offered Summer Shakespeare Camps for students in grades 6 through 12.

"If we can get children involved in Shakespeare's stories at an early age ... they'll never grow up with this idea that Shakespeare is boring," said Stephanie Shine, TSC's director of co-productions and education.

Supported by the company's Barbara B. Apperson Angel Fund, TSC has worked with more than 50 city, county, and private schools, and this year branched out to Fayette County and Mississippi schools as well.

The company says it has recorded 100,000 interactions with students through school tours, matinee performances and artist residencies in classrooms.

The camps at Germantown High School's Poplar Pike Playhouse include a one-week event June 11-15 that focuses on "A Midsummer Night's Dream," and a two-week Young Players Training Intensive from June 18 to June 29 for students with theater experience. A third option for adults ages 18 to 27 will be offered July 9-20.

Cost of the camps ranges from $250 to $500. Proceeds allow the company to offer full-time work for professional actors hired for public performances, like last season's "Macbeth" and "The Tempest," both of which took place in the newly renovated outdoor amphitheater in Shelby Farms Park.

Just under 4,000 students saw productions there in student matinees, double the number from previous seasons. Among them were Harvey Kay's literature and rhetoric classes from Westminster Academy.

"(The students) came back like they'd just seen a summer blockbuster movie," Kay said.

One of Kay's students was inspired to begin working on a "Shakespeare in the Parking Lot" performance in the fall as an all-student-led production. "And 17-year-olds don't just say, 'Hey I'd like to do a Shakespearean play'," Kay said.

Westminster teamed up with Hutchison School to participate in last season's school tour of "Romeo and Juliet." The entire ninth-grade class of Germantown High School was introduced to the play as well.

"What's wonderful about TSC is that they make the plays accessible," said Barry Gilmore, an English teacher at Hutchison. "When the students come back to class after the plays they have questions about the decisions the director made."

Camps run Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Go to tnshakespeare.org for information.