Drama Camp Diary

Ever wonder what it’s like at Drama Camp?  To be thrown together with a bunch of new kids, and put on a play together in just TWO weeks?  And not just any play – but SHAKESPEARE?!!

We asked our campers to keep a “DRAMA DIARY”  – to share their experiences as they prepared to present “A Midsummer’s Night at the Museum,” an original mash-up of some of Shakespeare’s best-known comedies, written by ACA drama teacher Jen Davis.

So, without further ado, and in their own words, we present ACA’s Drama Campers…

“I love drama camp!  It’s great, you get to do awesome plays, play super fun improv games, and do creative art projects.  ACA is an awesome camp and it brings out your inner artist, whether it’s musical, dramatic or artistic!”

— Fiona

Having fun with Shakespeare, swords, and pantaloons...!

“This is my 5th year in drama camp and I’m loving it!  I’m Beatrice (girl in the pink dress in the costume ball) and Sir Toby (boy in black leggings and smock thing).  The improv games here are awesome.  My personal favorites are Squirt, Salute the Director, Monster Museum, World’s Worst, and Where’s Charlie?  Oh, and Bus Stop!  I’ve had a lot of fun in the past week and two days and 3 hours, 50 minutes and a whole lot of seconds!  I love the cast party and it tastes really good! (yum).  On, and I have to wear PANTALOONS!!! Really!”

— April

“Drama camp is really cool.  I LOVE improv games, especially Bus Stop and Salute the Director.  Blocking and rehearsals are fun too, because it feels awesome to be performing and know your lines.  I am sooooo excited for the show!  It’s gonna ROCK!!  I also made a new friend and she’s really cool.  Oh, and pantaloons are NOT cool (or comfortable).”

— Maya

playing improv games up on stage...

“We love the game Squirt!  And other fun games.  I love to do the rehearsals.  Sometimes we play the last round of Squirt and 2 people would play and one person would tell a story and Jennifer would stand in front of a fan so we would be practicing our projection!”

— Joji

“Hello from Drama – Drama camp is totally awesome, all the games are really fun like Squirt and Museum Guard.  Blocking and Performing are also great.  I play Kid 2, who has a little sense of what’s happening.  This is going to be really fun!”

— Ben

Playing Taxi...!

“I really like the Drama Camp.  You get to do a bigger play than the other groups in the [regular arts camp].  Everyone always gets a part.  I like all the improv games we get to do.  I like Taxi and Bus Stop best.  I also like the three room game.”

— Olivia

“I had so much fun at drama but my favorite thing to do is rehearse!  I play Ms. Miranda.  My favorite part of playing her is I get soaked at the end! ”

— Anja

“Drama Rocks!  ACA is so much fun with lots of games and meeting new friends.  We played games like Squirt, Bus Stop, Taxi, World’s Worst, Salute the Director, Alien, and Where’s Charlie.  Everybody here is very nice!  My counselors were Alie and Allana, Eliza and Alex.  Drama Camp is awesome!”

— Joji

“ACA is great!  It passed by so quickly!  I can’t believe that it is almost showtime!  It’s going to be great!”

— Evelyn

“I’ve had a great time and I just want to say this Drama Camp is awesome.  I’d certainly like to do it again.”

— Cameron

working together on our costumes for the show...!

“We just finished a great day!  We blocked scenes, played improv games, worked on costumes, and finished art projects – it was a very productive day!”

— Evelyn

“Out of everything in these two weeks of Drama Camp, I would have to say my favorite thing was getting to know my character Scarlet.  I loved finding out what her personality was and then bringing Scarlet to life on stage.  I taught people fun improv games like Where’s Charlie and Alien, both of the games get you ready to act on stage – Alien gets you pumped up, and Where’s Charlie helps your acting skills.  Drama was great at ACA, everybody was nice and supportive.  DRAMA CAMP ROCKS!”

— Evie

“I am honored to be welcomed into the Drama group.  And I like playing games: Bus Stop, World’s Worst, Salute the Director, Echo, Squirt, etc.  I met a bunch of new friends.  Lunch, snack, and recess are awesome.  I play Benedick and the Fairy Chorus.”

— Lucy

“My favorite part of being here is all the games we play and meeting new friends.  I also love Drama Camp because we get to perform a play and have fun.  In the play I’m in the Fairy Chorus.  It’s really fun!”

— Jenny

“I’m very sad I can’t come back next year, but maybe I’ll be a C.I.T. and work with the Drama Camp.  I had lots of fun at Drama Camp.”

— Flava

“I play June in the play.  I like playing improv games.  My favorite part of being June is being the only practical kid. I really liked finding out our parts and seeing the costumes come together.”

— Laura

working on sword-fighting skills...

“ACA Rocks!  2 days until the show.  Sword fighting is awesome!  Main characters are Puck, Parris, Luke, Scarlet and June.  Cast party after!! Awesomeness!!!  I hope the show is awesome – what am I saying?  It will be!  Go Drama Camp!”

— April

“Dear ACA, just in case you want to know, I’m Witch 1 and Sir Andrew.  I loved playing improv games and Squirt was probably my favorite.  All the costumes are really cool!  I liked getting to know my character and getting to know my fellow campers.  Acting like people (or things) that I’m not is really fun and interesting.  Also playing improv games can bring out your inner actor!  From memorizing lines, to playing improv games or just being in your costume, they are all really great!”

— Fiona

“Dear Peeps, I love ACA!!!  It is full of awesome activities!  If you like art, drama, music, and fun stuff, this is the place for you!!”

— Ava

Want to see more from Drama Camp?  Check out our “Midsummer’s Night at the Museum” Slideshow for more photos from the production and all kinds of behind the scenes action!

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Macbeth: From Theatre to Field

Guest blog story by David Atkins, who played Macbeth in Arlington Children’s Theatre’s Shakespeare in the Park performance in July 2011.

David Atkins as Macbeth and Kate Miller as Lady Macbeth in Arlington Children's Theatre's Shakespeare in the Park production, July 10, 2011

Although we often associate the works of William Shakespeare with the iconic stage in the round at the Globe Theatre in London, Shakespeare’s troupe spent their summers touring the English countryside, putting on their plays in the open air.  Over the last several months, I was fortunate to share a similar experience with the cast of Arlington Children’s Theatre’s Macbeth, and I’m glad to have this opportunity to share some of what we went through as a cast.  First and foremost, being part of this show was wonderful and a true piece of teamwork, in every way.  The sense of accomplishment when the show goes well, and the whole cast knows everyone played a role in that, is one of the best parts of the theater experience.

We started rehearsing on a winter night when the ground was still covered in snow and this crazy, but amazing process ended on a beautiful summer night by Spy Pond.  For me, it has been a privilege to have the opportunity to bring Macbeth to the stage especially since he has been a fascinating character to get to know.  My first impression of Macbeth was that he was nothing more than a bad guy.  He certainly has his share of bad behavior, killing many innocent people in cold blood over the course of the play, and by the time Macduff carries in Macbeth’s severed head, most people would agree that Macbeth got what he deserved.  At that point in the show, I would agree.  He does go off the deep end in the second half of the show.  However, as I came to understand the character better, I began to feel a little sorry for Macbeth.  He starts the play as a brave and honorable warrior, which is why Duncan confers the title of Thane of Cawdor on him in the first place.  Slowly, the three witches, his wife, and ultimately his own ambition destroy him.

Double, Double, Toil and Trouble... Nancy McCarthy, Rebecca O'Leary and Ryan Lally as the three Witches

Being part of Macbeth was particularly interesting for me after having been in ACT’s production of Hamlet last spring.  The plays are known as two of Shakespeare’s most classic tragedies, yet their title characters couldn’t be more different.  Macbeth is a very impulsive and ambitious person.  He seeks to take what is not his, and he rarely stops to think about his actions, let alone their consequences.  Conversely, Hamlet plots and schemes, acting slowly upon his desire to avenge the death of his father, developing his plans over time and thinking before he acts.  Seeing these two characters in productions so close together presented a fascinating contrast.

Miles Allen as Macduff, performing in the round in Arlington's Masonic Temple, Spring 2011

Our indoor performances of Macbeth were staged in the Arlington Masonic Temple, a location that allowed us to perform in the round.  Performing in the round is a very different experience from performing on a proscenium stage with a traditional “fourth wall.”  Although the round comes with its own particular set of challenges, I find the round a much more natural place to perform.  When people stand around and talk in a group, there is no “front” or “back,” so why perform that way?  When the audience is only on one side, there is no excuse not to turn toward them, but, as an actor, this seems less natural.  When performing in the round, there is no upstage or downstage, and the action is free to take shape organically which changes the experience of both acting in, and viewing, the play.

After we had performed three shows in the round, we shifted the play to the back burner for almost two months and brought it out again to perform one final show for Shakespeare in the Park.  As I said before, Shakespeare’s company frequently used an outdoor setting back in the 1600s when his plays were first being performed.  The park was a fun, but challenging place to put on a play.  The two venues we performed in couldn’t have been more different.  The Masonic Temple’s stage in the round lent itself to the kind of natural acting I talked about before.  We were used to performing in the round, so having to direct all the action to an audience seated in one direction posed some interesting challenges.  We had to work to reorient some scenes in the play and change the blocking.

A different kind of backstage - behind the backstop at Spy Pond Field. The cast definitely rose to the occasion, and were able to carry off one of Shakespeare's darkest tragedies in the full light of an 80 degree, sunny summer day.

Besides the physical layout of the stage, the transition from performing in a room to a field was challenging in terms of acoustics, mood, and distractions.  First, relying on nothing but four microphones across the stage was the biggest challenge I faced in making the transition from stage to field.  Macbeth, as is the case in any of Shakespeare’s plays, is full of subtlety and carefully created moods.  The lack of a room with powerful acoustics created a need to speak quite a bit louder.  Could I retain everything I had done in the round and adapt it to the field?  Second, it was a difficult transition in terms of creating mood.  The Masonic presents an ideal setting for acting Shakespeare.  The indoor stage allows for the use of lighting to create mood, as well as a room that is an architecturally perfect setting for a Shakespeare play.  Contrast this with a field in the middle of broad daylight.  Trying to capture the sinister subtlety of murder in the middle of the day next to a baseball diamond was a challenge to be reckoned with.

We all knew it was coming, but Macbeth's inevitable end was played with gripping suspense by David Atkins, as Macbeth, and Miles Allen as Macduff.

Finally, the indoor stage was much quieter.  The outdoor stage was filled with distractions.  Some people played Frisbee across the field, while others played tennis behind our stage.  Airplanes often flew overhead.  These distractions made the intense focus of the play more difficult to reproduce.  In all three challenging areas, as I got more comfortable with such a different setting, I felt a lot more relaxed.  By the end of the play, the field seemed just as natural a place to perform as an indoor stage, which is a feeling I’m sure I shared with Shakespeare and the members of The Lord Chamberlain’s Men.

See more images from the show in our Shakespeare in the Park online slideshow

Shakespeare House Party

Something wicked this way comes – to a park near you – thanks to the support of Shakespeare in the Park lovers, who gathered recently for ACA’s annual House Party/fundraiser for Shakespeare in the Park.

Hosted by Judy and Chris Leich in their beautiful home overlooking Spy Pond, our Shakespeare supporters noshed, nibbled, and swapped stories about their favorite Shakespeare in the Park memories over the past 10 years.

David Atkins from Arlington Children's Theatre's Teen Shakespeare Troupe made for a very convincing Macbeth!

In a special preview of this summer’s production of Macbeth by Arlington Children’s Theatre on July 10, David Atkins presented three riveting soliloquies from the show.  Then Arlington’s jazz legend Eva Balazs entertained the group from the piano, quickly joined on guitar by Nat Leich in some wonderful impromptu music-making!

Eva Balazs and Nat Leich made beautiful music together, to the delight of the party guests!

Thanks to everybody who came out to support Shakespeare in the Park.  We hope we’ll see you for one (or both!) shows this summer:

“Macbeth”
by Arlington Children’s Theatre
Sunday July 10 at 5pm
Spy Pond Field

“Measure for Measure”
by New England Shakespeare Festival
Sunday August 7 at 5pm
Robbins Farm Park

more info: http://www.acarts.org/shakespeare.php

Shakespeare in the Park is funded in part by a grant from the Arlington Cultural Council, a local agency, which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.