Teens get unique theater experience in Cedar City

Published: Saturday, Aug. 6 2011 9:28 p.m. MDT

Youth participate in an acting workshop at the Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City.

Alan Neves, Alan Neves, Deseret News

CEDAR CITY — Shakespeare for Junior Actors is opening the world of William Shakespeare to youngsters one moment at a time.

The camp is a place where feelings flow freely. In fact, it's the order of the day.

"To be allowed to yell and scream out loud and to express themselves in a way, to feel jealousy on stage and to feel real love, to really connect with those emotions, it's a unique experience for them,” explained Miranda Giles, education outreach coordinator for the Utah Shakespeare Festival.

For this reason, the junior classes remain the most popular offering for children at the festival. While those 11 to 15 may be considered difficult ages, it's not the way they feel at the Utah Shakespeare Festival.

“What we see as those difficult years, are in reality the magic years for us here at the festival,” said Michael Bahr, education director at the Utah Shakespeare Festival. Bahr says teens during Shakespeare’s time and teens today deal with a lot of the same issues.

"So, who better than Shakespeare to help them through that time?" he said.

Every child between the ages of 12 and 14 feels completely backwards, Giles said. She said it’s very important that they gain a sense of self while they are at the camp. 

“For them to come here and be able to play with other emotions that sometimes are taboo for them to feel and to put themselves in situations where they’re uncomfortable, it’s huge for them,” she said.

During their week-long experience, they learn acting skills, including voice, stage combat, improvisation and scene work. They also see all six productions and meet with the professional actors.

Merodean Huntsman, 13, was attending the camp for the first time. She said she was learning and seeing how actors use their hands, their voice and their emotion to express their feelings.

Foster Dennin, 12, was also attending the camp for the first time. "Right now we're doing stage combat and make-up and everything, all the work you have to do like with wigs,” he said, “and it's useful to know how hard the actors have to work, really."

Although they may leave saying “I want to be an actor,” that's not the goal of the camp.

"I hope we've got politicians and rocket scientists who know and love the theater and have found it here in a setting like this," Bahr said.

It's about building better people and future audiences. The kids' Shakespeare camps continue for several more weeks and the plays through the end of the October.  For more information go to www.bard.org

While these kids are studying the serious works of Shakespeare, they are also just kids. They, along with thousands of other teens, read the works of another now famous author, J.K. Rowling, and they saw the final Harry Potter movie Thursday night with their teachers.

E-mail: cmikita@desnews.com

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