Bay Area Shakespeare Camps

San Francisco Shakespeare Festival Brings His Plays To Life Through Kids' Free Shakespeare in the Park this Summer!

The Camp's Education Director, Phil Lowery speaks to India Parent Magazine more on this innovative idea!

Can you please tell us your philosophy and the basic premise of Shakespeare Camp?
This is our 27th year of kids into the act through Bay Area Shakespeare Camp, which is one of the many Educational programs offered by San Francisco Shakespeare Festival.

Our mission is to make the words and themes of Shakespeare accessible to everyone, regardless of age, ethnicity, financial status or level of education. A few of the cornerstones of our philosophy are:

  • Learning should be fun and experiential. (Learning is naturally fun if the opportunities are presented as such.)
  • The plays are called "plays" for good reason; not "works". Play is how we learn.
  • Shakespeare is best spoken aloud and played upon a stage, not read silently from a book.
  • We don't make a distinction between Art and Education; Art is Education.
  • The earlier kids are exposed to Shakespeare - and all arts - the more easily they absorb it and begin to make connections, and the longer lasting the impact.

What is your Child/Teacher Ratio?
Our maximum ratio is: 15:1, but many of our camps also have interns or part-time managers, so the ration can vary from as low as 8:1 to 15:1

Can you explain a little bit about method of training? What is your overall Philosophy?
Most of the work we do in camp takes the form of interactive activities and games, in most cases, involving the entire body, sometime the voice, and at all times, the imagination. Rather than front-loading with lecture and demonstration, we usually back-load our exercises. That is, we give just enough instruction to get the students started on an exercise, so they have a direct experience first, and then we encourage them to reflect upon their experience, put it into words, and to apply what they've learned to the project they're working on.

What is the typical schedule for a child? Do you take kids to competitions?
Our day begins with a full group morning meeting, greeting and warm-up of our bodies, voices and imaginations. We then break up into smaller groups (based on age level) for classes in Voice and Movement, Discovering Shakespeare, and Production and Design. In most camps, we have two classes before lunch, and one class after lunch. In the afternoon, we hold rehearsals of the plays each group is working on, in preparation for the performances on the last day of camp.

This year, Shakespeare Players (ages 7-13) will be working on their own versions of As You Like It, The Tempest and a collection of comic scenes called Playing the Fool. The Upstart Crows (ages 12-18) will be working on The Taming of the Shrew.

How do you deal with challenging kids? What are your training methods?
We recognize that everyone has a bad day now and then, and we acknowledge feelings and try to make room for a variety of experiences, as long as one child's challenges don't disrupt the learning experience of the rest of the group. We set aside a quiet space if a child needs to separate and relax before rejoining the group.

What kind of background do you expect from your teachers?
Our teachers are all experienced Teaching Artists, many of whom are professional actors, directors and/or designers. All of our teachers are expected to know their craft (acting, directing, coaching) and to have experience with Shakespeare's verse. In addition, we provide training for the specific curriculum we've developed over the years.

How is the ethnic mix in your camp? Do you welcome all?
Everyone is welcome at San Francisco Shakespeare Festival and all of our programs, including our summer camps. We have camps all over the Bay Area, and the ethnic mixes in our camps typically reflect the community they take place in. In the South Bay (San Jose, Cupertino, Fremont, etc.), for example, at least half of our campers are of South Asian or Chinese heritage.

Do you think an ambitious student can be helped to move forward faster?
I'm not really sure what to make of this question, because the work isn't necessarily linear, so "forward" doesn't have the kind of meaning it might have in, say, science or mathematics. Rather, I would say we could help the ambitious student move deeper. Simply parsing the verse or memorizing their lines may challenge some students. The more ambitious student may memorize quickly, and can then work on developing an increasingly deep understanding of the character and the text, and can be coached to direct their ambition and energy toward greater and more nuanced expression.

What is your message to our readers?
Experience is welcome but not required to have a fun and enriching experience at Shakespeare Camp. For those with prior experience, we'll build on that and help move them to the next rung on the ladder so as to speak. Those who are curious and new to theatre will experience the thrill of their first performance! Also, our camps tend to fill up quickly, so don't delay. And if a camp is listed as "full" please add your child's name to the waiting list, so we can determine if we need to open another session.