Bard on the Beach summer camp for youth reimagines the world of Shakespeare

Young Shakespeareans invites youth from ages eight to 18 to find new ways to reinterpret well-known Shakespearean plays.

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      Bard on the Beach’s theatre camp for youth is shaking things up by reimagining some of Shakespeare’s greatest works.

      The program, Young Shakespeareans, invites youth from ages eight to 18 to find new ways to reinterpret well-known plays in a theatre summer camp. Facilitated by Bard’s education department, the camp is spearheaded by its education director, Mary Hartman.

      “Shakespeare provides a magnificence of material to expand a young person’s mind and broaden their horizons,” Hartman says.  

      Hartman explains that Young Shakespeareans, which has been around for 19 years, encourages students to explore characters from different angles.

      “We had a group of teens last year who wanted their Midsummer Night’s Dream to be more film noir,” Hartman says with a chuckle. “And Titania, queen of the fairies, was kind of a femme fatale.”

      Participants are also given a chance to express themselves in new ways, and to incorporate real-world experience into their performance.

      This is why Hartman encourages students to take on any role of their choosing, regardless of gender. She notes that fostering inclusivity enables youth to fully immerse themselves in the material and to create work that is reflective of their personalities. “Rather than trying to fit our understanding of the world and our understanding of Shakespeare through some traditional lens, what we do is we give them Shakespeare and let them bring their own experience to that.”

      Inclusivity, however, also means that no one gets left behind. Bard’s education department has worked hard to ensure that that does not happen.

      In 2009, a bursary fund was established by festival volunteers that asked patrons to donate whatever they could afford to the day camps and workshops. This support allows low-income families to enroll their children into the program.

      “We’ve never had to turn down an applicant who qualified for bursaries,” Hartman says. “And I can’t remember how many we funded over the years but it’s been more than 40.”

      The award is first-come first-serve and although registration is filling up quickly, Hartman claims that this should not deter persons from applying.

      “What we do is we hold a spot for someone who applies for a bursary for a particular workshop,” Hartman said. “We will hold their spot in that workshop until we can figure it out or until the bursary review can happen.”

      The recipients are also given the opportunity to enroll in Bard’s new full-day option. This gives youth the opportunity to stay behind after their workshop to learn from actors, costume designers, makeup artists, marketing people and other professionals.

      Hartman explains that this option was added to offer alternative options for parents who were unable to pick up their children in the middle of the work day.

      This new full-day option also provides the youth with more time to engage with the work. In the end, all registrants are exposed to the same depth of material and are equipped to provide new, alternative perspectives on how it can be presented. 

      “It is all about the participants,” Hartman says. “Getting them Shakespeare and helping them on how to make it their own.”