A Day in the Life

Stephanie Ann Foster, one of our premiere teaching artists, reflects on a day at camp. Stephanie Ann has been involved with Cal Shakes Artistic Learning since 2014, working in schools, leading professional development workshops for our teaching artists and classroom teachers, and as Oakland’s Conservatory Coordinator in 2015 and 2016. Photos below: 2016 Oakland Conservatory, by Stephanie Ann Foster.

“How do we do this?” “TOGETHER!”


Stephanie Ann Foster (and baby Quinn) with Oakland Conservatory kids, 2016.

The opening ritual of conservatory, our morning assembly, is audible all the way out to the street. We dance, we vote on creative ideas for costume days (Dr. Who, the students assure me, is quite the Shakespeare corollary). We redistribute dropped jackets and water bottles—the joyfully flung detritus of young actors who have put all their concentration into combat, improv, and the history class ghost stories that trickle out of Shakespeare’s plays when you poke at them with your (required) pencils.

We come here to try on new selves, and to recognize the pieces of ourselves in others. We come here to break apart texts, and maybe our whole selves while we’re at it.

Then we rebuild.



2017 Conservatories are on sale now. For more information and to register, click here. 


Artistic Learning: Inside and Out


20161121_105541Cal Shakes’ teaching artists not only teach to students around the Bay Area—they learn how to be better teachers themselves. We strive to create a team of teaching artists that are culturally competent and well equipped to encounter the populations of students we serve, we hold trainings around the following issues/topics:

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
Teaching Children on the Autism Spectrum
Child Development and Psychology
Teaching Shakespeare to Elementary and early Middle School students
Teaching Shakespeare to upper Middle and High School students


20161121_123850According to our teaching artists, the training:

“…really put into perspective a lot of tactics I had already been using in my teaching and helped show me the mechanics of the methods.”

“…[provided] learning techniques to create equitable classroom environments. Thank you for this training.”

“…[gave me] SO MUCH insight into the Autism Spectrum. The trainer made the content very accessible and hands on.”

“…provided a safe space in which to re-assess my teaching approaches. I really appreciate the excellent trainings.”


We are so proud of our teaching artists’ continual dedication to expanding their knowledge and skills with kids in classrooms and in our Summer Conservatories! Artistic Learning professional development and mentorship programs are part of a two-year initiative funded by the Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation.


Summer Shakespeare Conservatory Wins Best Teen Camp

The nice folks over at Alameda magazine just published their “Best of 2013” issue, and we were thrilled to see our Summer Shakespeare Conservatory named Best Teen Camp! Thanks, Alameda, and congrats to all our fellow winners. Check them all out here.

Want to see what all the fuss is about? Come watch our wonderful campers show off what they’ve learned this summer during their culminating performances. Five-week Conservatory performances take place July 19 & 20 at Bentley Upper School, 1000 Happy Valley Rd., Lafayette. Three-week Conservatory performances take place July 26 at Holy Names High School, 4660 Harbord Dr., Oakland. Two-week Conservatory performances take place August 2 at Bentley.

Campers themselves have free entry to all performances, and camper families are entitled to two free all-day passes per day. Additional tickets are available for conservatory performances by calling 510.548.9666 or visiting our online box office.

Ticket Prices
Pre-Sale Adult: Two-week performances $8, three- and five-week $15
Pre-Sale Youth/Senior: Two-week performances $5, three- and five-week $10
Day-Of Adult: Two-week performances $10, three- and five-week $20
Day-Of Youth/Senior: Two-week performances $7, three- and five-week $15

Schedule of Performances
Five-week July 19 & 20 at Bentley Upper School
10–11am                       Romeo & Juliet, performed by the Merry Kinsmen
11:30–12:30pm           Two Gentleman of Verona, performed by the Noble Knaves
1:30–2:30pm               As You Like It, performed by the Riotous Knights
2:30–4pm                    Cast Party
5–6:30pm                    Romeo & Juliet, performed by the Queen’s Own

Three-week July 26 at Holy Names
10–10:30am                 Romeo & Juliet, performed by the Merry Kinsmen
11–11:30am                  Much Ado About Nothing, performed by the Noble Knaves
12:30–1pm                   A Winter’s Tale, performed by the Riotous Knights
1:30–2pm                     Twelfth Night, performed by the Queen’s Own
2–2:30pm                     Cast Party

Two-week August 2 at Bentley Upper School
10–10:30am                  A Midsummer Night’s Dream, performed by the Merry Kinsmen
11–11:30am                  Two Gentleman of Verona, performed by the Noble Knaves
12–12:30pm                  Romeo & Juliet, performed by the Royal Jousters
1–1:30pm                      Richard III, performed by the Riotous Knights
2–2:30pm                      Much Ado About Nothing, performed by the Fortune Artists
3–3:30pm                      A Winter’s Tale, performed by the Queen’s Own
3:30–4pm                      Cast Party



Dancing Doors and Gossiping Trees at Two Week Summer Shakespeare Conservatory

By Katherine Goldman, Education Management Intern
Hello everybody! I’m Katherine, one of two education management interns in the Artistic Learning department of the California Shakespeare Theater. Working at Cal Shakes has been an amazing experience so far. Because I’m an arts administration intern, I spend most of my time working in our main offices, learning how to make all of our education programs run. We have  a bunch of programs, mostly for students (Summer Shakespeare Conservatories, Student Discovery Matinees, assemblies, and classes), but also a few for the life-long learners in our audience, such as Inside Scoops and pre-show Grove Talks.  With so many different programs, I’m always working on different projects, like running tech for an assembly or talking to parents about our summer conservatories. One of my toughest (yet most fun) projects was cutting The Taming of the Shrew down to a one-page version to be performed by our students before Student Matinees. It’s one of the ways we introduce the Main Stage plays to students—they perform the miniature version as fast as they can, get the gist of the major plot points, and then see the professionals do the show. Let me tell you, it isn’t easy to fit an entire play into one page, but  I can’t wait to see how the students react when they attend the play in the fall.

Even though I’m working in the office most of the time, sometimes I get to attend our educational programs. And the highlight of the summer so far has been working as a group leader at the Holy Names Conservatory. For two weeks, I escorted a group of 18 10- and 11-year-olds (known as the Riotous Knights) through busy days of classes and rehearsals. Although the camp was only two weeks long, the students were taught many acting fundamentals: improvisation, movement, voice/text, acting, Shakespeare history, and even some stage combat. They had a blast in the stage combat class—after all, what kid doesn’t love pretending to attack their peers? Especially when the fights were dropped into the wackiest scenarios:  stolen cookies, lost shoes, even a few ninjas who can only move in slow motion.

A good theater camp wouldn’t be complete without some crazy costume days. And crazy costume days we had, with Dress Like a Celebrity Day and Pajama Day. I loved Celebrity Day—of course we had several Justin Biebers (including a member of our staff), and a group of the eldest students came in full make-up as members of the band KISS. We had historical figures, musicians, even a cartoon character or two.

On our Master Class Monday, the Riotous Knights had some brand-new classes: They learned about the art of storytelling and they practiced applying some specialty stage makeup. My group of 11-year-olds aged before my eyes when they put on old-age makeup. It was surprisingly effective; an hour after that class, I spotted one of the Riotous Knights down the hall and had to do a double-take. She truly looked like she was in her 70s! But the surprise of the morning was the class about Professionalism, when L. Peter Callender came in and discussed with my students how to pursue acting as a career. Some of the Riotous Knights just wanted to do theater for fun, but others had really intelligent questions about the business of acting. I was impressed by how seriously they took the class. Having just graduated from an acting school myself, I’ve been asking many of the same questions that they asked. But don’t worry, parents: The number one point they learned was that school has to be the first priority.

After mornings of training, the afternoons were spent in rehearsals. Each of the five groups at Holy Names was working on a different play; the Riotous Knights were working on The Merchant of Venice with the amazing director Cat Thompson. Cat’s enthusiasm was contagious, and every Riotous Knight fell in love with her energy and love for the show. This production of Merchant was all about the ensemble, and every student was invested in the show and the story. The students came up with a bunch of innovative ideas for staging, and no ideas were impossible: We had doors that danced offstage, trees that giggled and gossiped, and caskets that sparkled with personality. The best part? The kids loved

Education management intern Katherine Goldman

playing those doors, trees, and caskets. The play was a complete success, and every student played a major role in the telling of the story. Our final performance went swimmingly and they had a ball being actors on the lovely stage at Holy Names High School.

Absolutely, without a doubt, the most amazing part of working with the Riotous Knights over the last two weeks was watching them grow. I saw the shyest kids become social butterflies. I saw how their work as an ensemble transferred to all their classes and break-time conversations. I saw them make interesting choices, collaborate, and produce a piece of theater that they understood and wanted to perform. And best of all, it was fun! Learning, growing, and having fun: It just doesn’t get better than that.


It’s Almost Showtime at the Shakespeare Summer Conservatory!

By Sloane Henry, Artistic Learning Intern

The Bentley Five-week Conservatory is in full swing! We’re almost half way through and time continues to fly by. I have been stage managing for the Merry Kinsmen—the youngest group (third–sixth grade) and I am proud to say that they are well on their way to a very solid production of The Taming of the Shrew, directed by Heidi Abbott

The 3 witches of MACBETH take a break from rehearsing with intern Bristol Glass to strike a pose

and led by PIP Sam Coughlin, that sends a much more positive message than a traditional staging of the Shakespeare play. I am also anxious to see the oldest group, The  Queen’s Own, pull off their own rendition of Titus Andronicus directed by Susannah Martin, staged managed by PIP Cordelia Miller, and supported by their fearless leader, PIP Brett Jones. Cal Shakes just closed a powerful production of Titus on their Main Stage, so the Queen’s Own have been very fortunate to acquire many of its props this way. But it’s very clear how important it is to these kids to make this show their own, as they have set up multiple bake sales at Conservatory lunch to raise money for additional props and special effects.

The cast of TAMING OF THE SHREW decked out in pirate garb.

There is also a lot of buzz around the Fortune Artists’ modern take on The Two Gentlemen of Verona, directed by Catherine Castellanos and stage managed by Caitlin Volz. From what I’ve heard in rehearsals, it looks like the second-oldest group has taken a cue from The Verona Project and is featuring the players’ musical talents in the show. I talked to some Noble Knaves (the second-youngest group) during a break and they seemed very confident in their progress with Macbeth, directed by Laura Lowry, stage managed by Sam Callahan, and headed by PIP Bristol Glass, declaring “We’re all blocked and almost off-book!”

The Riotous Knights leap for joy. HUZZAH!

And last, but not least, the Riotous Knights’ Twelfth Night, directed by Ryan O’Donnell, aided by PIP Jordan Reiff, and currently staged managed by Sophie Kreeger (while their other stage manager, Julia Van Broeck is working the Cal Shakes Main Stage production of The Verona Project) is looking like it’s going to be a wild ride complete with hippies, colored hairspray, disco, Ke$ha, and a live band.