A total of 30 area schoolchildren are participating in Colonel William Casey Elementary School’s “Summer with Shakespeare.” The free program is supported by the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival and the LWC Bonner Leader program.
COLUMBIA, Ky. -- More than two dozen area schoolchildren have spent the last four weeks at summer camp at Colonel William Casey Elementary School. But rather than learning how to improve their jump shot or hit a ball, the 30 students from kindergarten through grade five have studied William Shakespeare at “Summer with Shakespeare” camp.
At 1 p.m. CT on Thursday, the students will show what they have learned about the Bard when they perform a children’s version of Shakespeare’s romantic comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the school.
The free program -- which is overseen by Camp Casey Director Dana Harmon -- is supported by the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival and the LWC Bonner Leader program.
“The ‘Summer with Shakespeare’ camp provides an opportunity for students to experience a form of learning that is not prevalent in this area,” Harmon said. “They have grown creatively, learned about teamwork and have also been physically active.”
During their five daily hours at the camp, the children have learned what it takes to produce a play, said Bradley Diuguid of the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival. In addition to learning their parts in the play, the students have also worked on posters, costumes and scenery. They’ve also studied the history of the late-16th and early 17th centuries, the period when Shakespeare wrote A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The camp has also included numerous physical activities.
“While they are here they are not only playing a lot of games, doing a lot of physical activities, learning a lot of new vocabulary and increasing their reading, but they are also learning some things historically about Shakespeare’s world and his time period,” Diuguid said.
Assisting Diuguid are three Lindsey Wilson Bonner leaders: Mary Beth Jewell of Canmer, Ky., Patsy Richards of Hustonville, Ky., and Carissa Smith of Louisville, Ky.
“It’s been a learning experience to work with kids of different ages and see them learn about Shakespeare,” Jewell said.
One of Shakespeare’s romantic comedies, A Midsummer Night’s Dream tells the story of four young Athenian lovers, a group of amateur actors, the Duke of Athens, the Queen of the Amazons and fairies who inhabit a moonlit forest.
“I think it’s great to work with Shakespeare with kids this age because they are so willing to try new things and they have so much energy,” Diuguid said. “The thing I like about the theater and about performance is they give students a chance to be on their feet and be active, show off to each other, and to try new things.”
Diuguid said he has been especially impressed with the children’s willingness to learn new things.
“They are totally willing to dive into it and give it a try,” he said.
Diuguid noted that the 30 area children participating in “Summer with Shakespeare” are getting something he didn’t have growing up in rural upstate New York. Diuguid recently earned a bachelor’s degree in theater arts and English from State University of New York at New Paltz; this fall he will enroll in Harvard University’s graduate program in arts education.
“But I wasn’t exposed to much Shakespeare until I was in high school,” he said. “What’s great about this program is that it introduces Shakespeare to children at a young age. … I hope the main thing they take away is a deeper appreciation for Shakespeare and theater arts in general. I hope that they say in the future, ‘This is something that I have done and that I can do.’ I hope they hold on to that imagination.”
Lissette Trejo, 9, who will be a fifth-grader this fall at John Adair Intermediate School, said the camp has sparked her imagination and opened up for her the possibilities of theater.
“I like everything a lot -- it’s all OK,” said Lissette, who plays a fairy in the play. “I’ve learned what to do and how to act in plays. I’m excited about that.”
Click here to read A Midsummer Night’s Dream online.