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.

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Conservatory Teachers: Silver and Gold

The classic Girl Scout song proclaims, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold”. This applies to our Summer Shakespeare Conservatory family as well, and not just the kids—teachers, too! There are our golden (and much-loved!) Teaching Artist pals like Susannah Martin and Wendy Wisely who, between them, have 15 years teaching experience with Cal Shakes campers. And for 2010 we’ve welcome several exciting new artists into the Conservatory troop.

Lisa Tateosian (pictured at right) comes to us by way of Contra Costa Jewish Day School, where she teaches drama. Since getting her Master’s in educational theater at NYU, Lisa has been putting her skills to good use, specializing in choreography and dance-theater. She will be directing A Winter’s Tale and teaching acting classes for our Five-Week Conservatory in Lafayette.

Kai Morrison (pictured at left) has been wielding swords and other stage weaponry for many years, and enjoys passing his love for fight choreography on to the next generation. When we began to expand our summer offerings and needed additional stage combat instructors, longtime Conservatory director Dylan Russell suggested we contact Kai. He has shaped the fights in Dylan’s San Francisco high school productions, and performs (and fights) onstage himself, most recently in Giant Bones at the EXIT Theater. Kai will be teaching at our programs in Oakland and San Francisco.

Hope Mirlis (pictured at right) was introduced to us through Teaching Artist Organized, a Bay Area collective of arts specialists who come together to share best practices and gain professional development. A movement expert with an MFA from UC Davis, Hope co-founded Synchronicity Performance Group in Atlanta which focused on community engagement, women artists, and new work. She will keep our young performers on their toes teaching movement at our two-week programs in the East Bay.

We are beside ourselves with excitement now that our talented friends, new and old, have started coming together for what’s sure to be an awesome summer of training, performance, and general good theater times. For more information on our Summer Shakespeare Conservatories, click calshakes.org/conservatories.

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