"Who goes to Shakespeare Camp?"
The question you would probably mutter upon first hearing about a Shakespeare camp. You would then answer your own question by thinking of kids who would rather bury their noses into the pages of Romeo and Juliet under the bleachers during the school pep assembly than on top and at the dead front of the bleachers; with face paint matching the school colors, and belting the fight song until their throats go hoarse.
Although this may be true, had you seen the group of kids gathering at the Gallagher student center theater prior to the start of the first day of camp, you will quickly realize that you don't have to be a Shakespeare nerd to attend Cincinnati Shakespeare Summer Camp.
The Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, who runs the Cincinnati Shakespeare Summer Camp, is a resident ensemble located at 719 Race Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202. Each year, the Company brings in theatre artists from all over the world to join the ensemble for a season. The Cincinnati Shakespeare Company has a wonderful reputation for bringing to life the art of Shakespeare and the Classics which always receive standing ovations from the young and old alike.
Each summer in June, members of the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company's ensemble put on a Shakespeare Summer Camp for incoming seventh graders through graduating twelfth graders. The camp age groups are split into three tiers: Camp I, for incoming seventh and eigth graders; Camp II, for incoming ninth and tenth graders; and Camp III, for incoming eleventh through graduating seniors.
As previously pointed out, you certainly don't need to be a Shakespeare nerd to attend Cincinnati Shakespeare Summer Camp. While the camp revolves around a Shakespeare emphasis, in reality, only a very small portion of the camp day is spent actually delving into the Shakespearean craft. The rest is spent on master classes and workshops in stage combat, dialect, text analysis, auditioning, improvisation, costume design, and so much more. The camp director and instructors are highly qualified in the art of theatre and education. As a matter of fact, the two stage combat instructors are qualified to perform and teach their craft by the Society of American Fight Directors.
For the Shakespeare-emphasis part of the camp, all the campers are split into several small groups to perform scenes from Shakespeare's canon for the final performance on the last day of camp in front of family and friends. Even if you're not crazy about Shakespeare, this part of the camp will help you to understand his works and writing style better. It is almost one-hundred percent guaranteed that you will gain a better appreciation for Shakespeare. This is not only beneficial for your future theatrical endeavors, but for your performance in school as well.
All things considered, there is one thing about this camp that really makes it stand out. Furthermore, it's not a class or workshop that the intstrutors are paid to teach. This thing would be comraderie. While it's true that most summer camps allow you to be part of a team or group, the comraderie of the Cincinnati Shakespeare summer camp is simply exceptional. I have been to the camp two summers, and one thing that I noticed right off the bat was how welcoming and inclusive my fellow campers were. Prior to the start of camp, each camper auditions for a role in the Shakespearean scenes for the end-of-camp performance. Some get larger parts than others. Some have been attending camp longer than others. Some had physical disabilities. But despite it all, none of the campers ever showed any sign of showing off or having superiority to anyone else. Everyone always seemed to be on the same line as everyone else. That being said, nobody was left behind, either. We always wanted our performance to keep improving. If anyone was confused on a stunt in stage combat, help was always nearby. One of our campers had extreme physical limitations, and the stage combat instructors taught her a different way to perform that would work for her, and look just as good as anyone else.
And the comraderie didn't just show onstage. During lunch, we typically go to the back lawn outside the building to eat. But this place was not accessible by wheelchair, and we had a camper in a wheelchair during my second year at the camp. And instead of leaving her by herself during lunch, the whole camp; the thirty-something kids in the camp, went to the front patio which was wheelchair accessible.
The Cincinnati Shakespeare Summer Camp is really exceptional for the wonderful stagecraft learning experience it offers, but also for the experience that you don't even pay for. It simply just happens. If only the friendship, love, and compassion that shines so brightly amongst the Cincinnati Shakespeare Campers showed more often in everyday life.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.