Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Shows of Young Company Theatre Camp Session 2, 2010

The following piece comes to us from one of the ASC interns. See the Intern Blog for more from them.


Let me introduce myself: David Techman, the ASC’s longest intern (over a year plus summers before that). I mainly work in education and archives, organizing and cataloguing the company’s archive and working on a book about their history. In past summers I had the pleasure of working with YCTC. This past Sunday I saw Session 2’s final performance, consisting of a one-hour Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra in two one-hour blocks.


Unlike in previous years, the day’s entertainment began with the pre-show the camp puts together for ASC shows. The pre-show explored what Shakespeare wrote and what actually happened, beginning with a portrayal of Cleopatra’s death and building up to a portrayal of a boy actor playing the scene form Shakespeare’s play—the ghost of Cleopatra must watch “some squeaking Cleopatra boy my greatness / I’the posture of a {prostitute}.” Cleopatra. I find it difficult to communicate the piece’s brilliance without making the article too long. Also worth noting: the belly dancing and camper Jane J.’s (who played Cleopatra) slam poem set to music, which summarized the action of the two upcoming plays and reflected on the campers’ position in the story.


Julius Caesar director Laurie Riffe kept most of play’s action including such small parts as the opening scene and Artemidorus, a task more daunting than the other directors faced when we consider that this play had to be truncated twice as much. Performing this play first gave the audience a clear backstory for Antony and Cleopatra and showed how much Mark Antony changed. Daniel R., a longtime YCTC veteran, made an outstanding Antony. His eulogy for Caesar climaxed the very well-staged funeral scene. Actors dispersed around the stage and aligned themselves with the audience, shouting and beating on the walls when indicated by the text. For me, seated in an onstage “gallant stool,” it formed an Elizabethan equivalent of Dolby 5.1 surround sound. Brutus delivered his eulogy from the balcony while Antony stood against the frons scaenae, out of his view. For his, Antony stayed on the stage, close to the other actors and Caesar, played by new camper Chris D., who lay beneath a shroud on a great marble dias. Chris opted to play Caesar as angry and passionate rather than as a wooden statue, the way he was portrayed on the Roman stage in a tradition some educators claim Shakespeare continued. His approach yields a Caesar more human than absolute, more susceptible to ambition, and more sympathetic at his assassination. Also deserving of mention are the solid performances given by Rose B. and Brett S. as a crafty Caius Cassius and a tormented Marcus Brutus. (Interestingly, the two appeared onstage together last year as Portia and Basanio). In the end, the production proved a fine tragedy that set the stage for more deaths to follow.


In Antony and Cleopatra, Part I, father and son directing team James and Thomas Keegan highlighted that this Antony differed from the one just seen by casting Margaret C. in the role, a talented young actress of no great stature. It surprised one when not only Octavius Caesar and Cleopatra but even the weak triumvir Lepidus (played skillfully by John P. W.) looked down at him. Perhaps it comments on the character’s (and Margaret’s) power that Antony did not become a weakling. Hannah M.’s Cleopatra brimmed with fervor until audience and messenger alike could feel her wrath, while third year camper Alexi S. brought us an especially militant, calculating, and on-the-ball Caesar, the logical extension of the Octavian seen in Julius Caesar. Alexi knew his ambitions’ loftiness and was ready to strike at any reasonable excuse. The Keegans cast as their soothsayer Jane, who bears a striking resemblance to Elizabeth W., the first play’s soothsayer. The resemblance does not extend to the characterizations, however; Elizabeth’s ghostly sage calling from the balcony little resembled Jane’s earthy, animal prophet who crept and bounded about the stage. It fascinated me to see the dynamics when the triumvirs laid their swords in a triskell and attempted to resolve their grievances before marching against the paramilitary-styled Pompey of Madelaine M.. Antony’s lieutenant Domitus Enobarbus really stole the show in the portrayal by Rachel B., a strong first-year camper with astounding comic timing. The play ended with a scene of sheer brilliance. The actors stood onstage while McKenna D. read a camper-written verse epilogue and the actors from the next play came to replace those with their roles. Part I could not have ended better.


Jeremy West directed Antony and Cleopatra, Part II. After a striking opening, the audience saw a calmer-tempered but impassioned and heart-rending Cleopatra in Rebecca R., who has attended camp almost as many times as her brother Daniel R. from Caesar. Under veteran J. H.’s acting, Octavius Caesar became less militant but more evil, and when his greatness did lead to an angry-sounding level, one attributed the choice to situational specifics rather than a hot nature. Daniel H. gave a good performance as Antony in his first YCTC show as the tragic story drew towards its inevitable conclusion. Amidst the sadness, Anna S.’s clown made the whole house laugh, perfectly pushing la douche √©cossaise near its final scalding. The play ended with viewers overwhelmed by bittersweet sadness for these impressive figures, and, like their predecessors, the cast received several standing ovations.


I have always known that nothing quite resembles YCTC, but each year I am astounded afresh by the energy and talent these teenagers bring to the stage. Session II has in recent years consisted of mainly experienced campers. This year, however, the majority of the campers were first year. After a mere three weeks, even those new to the ASC’s training could, under the guidance of experts, bring us these wonderful shows. My greatest regret: that the shows only run for one day. One could watch them half a dozen times, each time seeing something new and never growing bored—just like the company’s professional shows. If you have not seen YCTC before, I beg you to come to their shows next summer. Admittance is free, and I have no doubt that you will be amazed.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Salon Night

Wednesday Night. August 4. Salon Night. Some of the campers rode the elevator, while the rest of the campers climbed the black and white checkered stairs up to the 5th floor at the Masonic building where ASC has its offices. All of them eventually reached the red carpeted room where the grad students were waiting for them in a big circle of chairs. Salon Night is a tradition at YCTC where the Mary Baldwin College graduate students lead a discussion about the resident troupe plays that all of the campers have seen. On Wednesday, the grads started the discussion with Wild Oats. The first question was asking for the campers’ favorite quotes from the show. The campers were immediately involved and started spouting the moments that they loved. The next question posed to the campers was to ask if Wild Oats was a play just for ‘Shakespeare nerds’ or if it could be enjoyed by all audiences. The room was almost split, yet the campers patiently awaited their turns to speak their opinions. Even when they disagreed, they listened to each other and let those opinions be heard. Campers asked questions too, continuing the discussion.

The group then went on to talk about Othello and The Taming of the Shrew. The grad student leading the discussion about Shrew split the room in two, asking one side to argue the feminist side and the other to argue the sexist side. He then asked two campers to read a monologue from Petruico and Kate’s famous last speech. After each one he let the sides state their opinions and argue out the merits of one side over the other. The campers had so many ideas and opinions, it was hard to keep up with all of them. For many the night ended too soon, and while walking back to Stuart Hall, the campers were still fervently discussing their interpretations of The Taming of the Shrew.

Darielle Shandler

Camper Interviews: Day 6

Wednesday Afternoon. August 4. Kate P. is a first year camper who is playing Charmian in YCTC’s production of Antony and Cleopatra Part 2.

What has been surprising for you during the rehearsal process?

It’s been different. Working with Jeremy West focuses a lot on professionalism. He says not to give notes to fellow actors. I agree with that and I think it’s not said enough.
What have you learned?

I like when we learned how Shakespeare published plays. That was something new and fun for me.
What has been your favorite part of camp?
I think the “What You Will” night has been my favorite. It’s so laid back. It gives you the opportunity to just let go and follow your impulses.

Was camp what you expected?

I expected it to be a really positive experience. I expected to lean a lot and meet new people, and that’s what happened.


Jonathan F. is one of this session’s two day campers. It is his first year, and he is cast as Proculeius and soldiers in Antony and Cleopatra Part 2.

What has been surprising for you in the rehearsal process?

It’s something new. Jeremy says when we stand still, stand with our muscles, not our knees. If you don’t it will make your knees really weak. Don’t lock them.

What have you learned?

Clowning, combat, voice; they have all been fun.

What has been your favorite part of camp, or what are you looking forward to?

My favorite part is seeing the shows at the Blackfriars. I’m looking forward to doing the PreShow.

Was camp what you expected?

It was more than I expected. The master classes and shows have been great.

This is Anna S.’s third and final year at YCTC. She is playing Diomedes, Clown, Captain, two attendants, and a servitor in Antony and Cleopatra Part 2.

They are asking me to do a lot[by playing a lot of characters], but its not an issue, I asked for a big challenge.
What have you learned?
It was fun to learn how to belly dance and the combat is always fun to learn.
What has been your favorite part of camp?
My favorite part of camp is seeing the shows because its something completely different than I usually get to do or see. It takes you away for awhile, almost like you are in a completely different world.
What has been different about camp this year that you liked?
I have liked how for the PreShow we have been able to be in several different groups. It gives us more to do, so we can contribute a lot more as a group. I liked that a lot.
Any favorite moments?
I think some of my favorite moments mostly involved the shows. The constant quoting of the shows. I really enjoy that and I like to see that everyone’s enjoying the Blackfriars. I think that’s kinda neat.
What kept you coming back?
The experience, the social aspect, the fun, the shows. Both seeing them at the Blackfriars and being able to perform them ourselves. It’s great how some of the actors from the ASC come teach us classes. The combination of all that is what kept me coming back. And being a theatre kid and to be around other theatre kids is great as well. It’s one of the best experiences I have ever had.

Darielle Shandler

Camper Interviews: Day 5

Tuesday Afternoon. August 3. Jane J. settles into the library study room, today her long hair is held back with a scarf on which some of Shakespeare’s sonnets are inscribed. This is her third year and fourth and final session as a YCTC camper before going off to college orientation right after camp ends.

What had been different this year at camp that you liked?
There are a lot of differences in the camp. Things have changed. “What You Will” is very different to me; the location has changed. Sonnet Night was different than the last night of camp. We haven’t done any of the salons. Usually one of the grad students led a discussion about the plays. It was a tough thing though with so many students.
What are you looking forward to?
Right now, I’m looking forward to Sonnet Night. I finished my sonnet last night and I’m very proud of it. I’m also excited about the productions. I’ve done it all before so I’m not afraid about anything. I know how it all works.
What kept you coming back?
I like how it introduced me to acting in early modern theatre. I very much like that form. It’s something that I might want to do. The camp had taught me a lot.


John P.W. sits in a chair in the library. He is a first year camper, coming to YCTC after his cousin suggested it to him. He is cast in Antony and Cleopatra Part 1, as Lepidus, Demetrius, and some messengers.

What has been surprising during the rehearsal process?

I’v really enjoyed that our director, James Keegan, is an ASC actor. It was very cool and surprising to me. He’s doing all these different shows, and yet he finds time to direct us with his son.
What have you learned?

I’ve learned so much. But at the same time it’s not specific knowledge that I can say ‘This is what I’ve learned’. I’ve learned how to act drunk onstage and also how to portray different aliments.

What has been your favorite part of camp?

I really loved the masquerade, the lake, and seeing the shows. I have really enjoyed all the lectures and master classes, which I think are very very cool. It becomes almost routine; it’s easy to forget that these people are university professors and professionals. It’s very cool when you think about it.
Was camp what you expected?
I didn’t have any expectations. My only expection was that I would put on a Shakespeare show. My cousin went here, and he assured me that it was awesome.

I think this is such an interesting place almost that any expections I would have had would be wrong. There was no way I could have expected to have master classes and be directed by ASC actors. It’s the people who make it. I’ve met so many cool people and there was no way to predict that.

Any favorite quotes or moments?
One of my favorite quotes, was at the masquerade when [the lifesize cutout of]Humphrey Bogart was being danced with and someone said, “I live through Humphrey Bogart.” Also, whenever Chris opens his mouth it’s always something funny. The things people say are the funniest when they aren’t trying to be funny.

My roommate Jay, had a massive kazoo solo. I loved “What You Will”. Chris’s Lady Gaga ukulele medley; it wasn’t something I thought possible. He was a very good performer, with his body language. There were amazing singing and shows and scenes. I like MaryLynne’s reaction to everything that went on.

Anything else?
There is so much to do, you have to manage time so you can have time. I’m off book, and I’m working on my stuff for PreShow. I’ve walked out into town with people, and I’ve had fun. And I’ve made good friends. It’s about knowing when it’s time to work and when it’s not. There’s not a formula for it, you just do it.

You can’t describe camp. Every year is different, and every time is different. Even within the same master class, even within different partners in stage combat. That’s what makes this place so awesome.

It’s like a building. The scaffolding is the plays, counselors, and directors. But it’s the people who fill it in. That’s the important part. It wouldn’t be the same with my roommate or my other friends. The removal of one person and it would change everything.

It’s like life, I guess. You do what you do for the people around you. It’s only when you work together when you get to create something. I hope I have made friends there that I will keep for a long while. Even if I don’t see them ever again. You don’t have to speak to them; you just have to remember them.


Becca M. is spending her third and final year at camp playing Octavia and a couple of messengers in Antony and Cleopatra Part 1.

What has been your favorite part of camp?

It’s just a big mesh of stuff. Nothing stands out particularly. I really like the theme of camp this year with ancient Rome and modern. I also really liked going to Mary Baldwin College for the lecture. I really like the history work we are doing. That’s really fun. I am excited about a lot of the stuff we are doing.
What has been different about camp this year that you liked?
Every year is different to an extent. I’m really comfortable this year, which is different. I just feel really satisfied.
What kept you coming back?
First of all, it’s amazing here. I had such a great experience my first year. It was the best three weeks of my life. I heard the play we were doing and said I have to be here for that. There were things last year I didn’t like and I didn’t want to end that way. I wanted to have a good final YCTC year. It’s definitely been a good session. A good way to end.

I love it. That about as simple as I can get.

Darielle Shandler

Camper Interviews: Day 4

Monday Afternoon. August 2. Caroline L. leans forward on her chair in the library. This year is her fourth and final year at camp. She is playing Agrippa in Antony and Cleopatra Part 1.

What was surprising for you during the rehearsal process?
This year I feel a lot more comfortable with myself, I feel more free. Especially with both of the Keegans. I think having two directors changes the whole dynamic. I feel more comfortable talking with them. At first I was terrified about performing in front of them, but it’s a lot easier to talk to them because they admit they have faults too. They say different things, and they make fun of each other.
What have you learned?
This year I have learned more movement and voice things through the workshops. I finally grasp what the teachers are saying.
What has been your favorite part?
Just how free it is. Every year you have kids who are asked if they want to go to Governor’s School for the summer. I feel my time is better spent here. It sets you apart for college and getting other acting jobs. The whole camp is my favorite part. It makes me unique.
What has been different this year that you liked at camp?
I kinda like how from my first year to now, the PreShow has changed every year.I really like that.
What kept you coming back to camp?

Because it’s so different than everything else, there’s nothing like YCTC in the world. There might be times when it’s frustrating, or I’m homesick, but I can’t believe how fortunate I am that I found this place.


Second year camper Kelly S. sits in the library. She is in the production of Antony and Cleopatra Part 2 and is playing many of the supporting characters.

What was surprising for you during the rehearsal process?

I was surprised at how hard it is to make so many different characters in your body and in your voice, because the costumes aren’t going to be hugely different between the characters.
What has been your favorite part of camp?
I really enjoy the PreShow rehearsals, those tend to be really cool. I remember last year we did acrobatics, but this year with the fighting, everything can be different. There is a lot of symbolism, instead of going just with the text, which is fun to play around with.
What has been different about camp this year that you liked?
Last year, I only played one character. I like this year because I get to play with a lot of different characters which is fun. Also, the people are great this year; I don’t feel there is a lot of drama. Each year is always going to be different, but it’s always going to be fun.
Any favorite moments?
I love the shows we see and the rehearsal. Everything we do; there’s always something fun.
What kept you coming back?
I loved it. It was so much fun. It was good way to keep my acting up during the summer, good way to improve acting wise. It’s one of the only times I can do Shakespeare, which I love. The atmosphere is fun. I loved it so much I wanted to come back.

Camp is awesome. It’s just something really fun to do. I get good acting
knowledge to bring back to school. I am doing a directing project at school so I’ve been watching how the directors get the actors to do what they want and get a great show.

At YCTC, everyone cares about theatre and the shows. They show up on time, and they care about what they are doing and not just doing it for the credits.


Maddie M. comes into the library study room bearing chocolate, and she pulls her chair up to the wall to lean back against it. This is her third and final year at YCTC. She plays Alexas, Canidius, and Menas in Antony and Cleopatra Part 1.

What has been surprising for you during the rehearsal process?

Well, I have the two director scenario going on. I have seen both of them on the ASC stage. It’s so rewarding to be able to see them on stage and then learn from them. These are people who have made it, and now they are helping me. You learn so much from both of them. It’s like getting two for the price of one.

What have you learned?

Every year there is so much that I learn. I learn more at this camp for real life than I do at school because I want to be an actor. If you want to be an actor, this is the place to be, because you learn so so much. When I came three years ago, I just wanted to get out of the house for the summer, but it’s been wonderful.

I’ve learned how rewarding but how difficult it is to put all that you have into a piece of art. I put all that I have into what I create on stage. I’ve learned within both styles of Directors. You have to roll with the punches.

What are you looking forward to?

I always look forward to the shows. It is the best day of my year. To perform on the same stage as all those wonderful amazing people. I want to be an ASC actor now. The stage conditions are so unique. I just love it.

I love midnight rehearsals because we drink a lot of coffee. It’s cool to be in the Blackfriars late at night because it’s all dark and mysterious and empty. Show days are still the best for me though.

What has been different about camp this year that you liked?
I actually like doing these interviews. I love talking about camp. The world needs to know about YCTC. It’s amazing.

I love camp because you learn who you are because you have to. You can be anyone. Acting is all about putting yourself into a character. It forces you to learn about yourself and love yourself.

There are a lot of new people this year. I wasn’t sure if I would like that, but I like all the new people. That means that the word had gotten out and that means that YCTC will have a future. The camp does really important stuff.

Any favorite quotes or moments?

Well, my two directors have had birthdays during camp. James Keegan stopped rehearsal early, and we all went down to Split Banana and he bought us ice cream. James Keegan is one of my acting heroes, and he bought me ice cream. The actors are so much part of the community and they are so accessible. Usually you think of actors as prima donnas. I love Shakespeare, but the part of ASC that I love the most is that the actors are real.

What kept you coming back?

I am serious about theatre, learning, having fun, about giving my all to this experience and I can’t get this experience any other way. You make so many important connections. You meet so many people, you learn so much about so many things. It’s really interesting. I know so many stories of YCTC people who have gone on to do so many important things. There are so many stories of people climbing the ladder. There’s so much that branched out of this. YCTC is really a family of people who cheer each other on.

People at YCTC really support each other. People who get leads are applauded. We help each other and support each other. That is so undervalued in other theatre experiences. It’s is usually “you, you, you” and not enough “we”.

Darielle Shandler

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Trip to the Lake

Sunday. August 1. All the campers packed up their bathing suits and towels and piled into three Stuart Hall buses to go to Lofton Lake, a short thirty minute ride from Staunton. Every YCTC session has this day for the campers to just relax and get ready for the last week of camp. After getting to the lake and going over the rules, the campers run down and jump into the water. The overcast day doesn’t stop them from gathering and talking in a shallow area or having cannonball contests off the dock. While some campers played in the water, others sat on the dock and watched, snuggling in their sweatshirts and long pants. The weather was pretty cold, but didn’t stop the fun. Luckily the rain held off, and the campers were able to freely walk around the lake and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere. Walking away from the lodge, the view of the lake opened up and with the clouds low over the mountains, the vision was strikingly beautiful.

The BBQ for lunch was perfect for the cool day, and the campers wolfed it down. Hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, lemonade, watermelon, oranges, carrots, and cookies were laid out for everyone’s enjoyment. As the owners of the lodge stoked up the fire, campers gathered around it. A couple of people started playing guitars and ukuleles, and soon there was a circle of campers singing along. Meanwhile, other campers took canoes and kayaks out onto the lake. When it was time to go back to Stuart Hall, the campers had to be pulled away. They probably could have sung songs around the camp fire into the night, but they eventually all got back on the buses to go home. Before getting there, however, the camp made a stop at Klein’s, a local ice cream shop. The line twisted into the parking lot, as all the campers ordered their treats: a perfect way to end a successful day. Once back at Stuart Hall, some campers did laundry, while others brought pillows and blankets into the library to watch movies. When it was all over, the campers went to bed well rested and ready to get back to work for the final days of camp.

Darielle Shandler

Camper Interviews: Day 3

Saturday afternoon. July 31. Elizabeth W. is seated in the library. She is a first time camper and has been cast as Trebonius, Ligarius, the Soothsayer, and a Plebeian, in the production of Julius Caesar.

What has been surprising for you during the rehearsal process?

I get to be on the balcony as the soothsayer. And we only use the balcony three times during the show; the ghost, soothsayer, and when Pindarus is at the top of the hill.

What did you learn?

Stage combat. I’ve done a couple of set fights with friends but this is at once simpler and more difficult than it seems.

What had been your favorite part of camp?

Everybody here is nice. My roommate has been here before and she’s awesome.

What camp what you expected?

Yes, better than expected.

Any favorite quotes or moments?

We’ve had a whole lot of fun with the line ‘cannot drink too much of Brutus blood’. I think we have finally managed to stop laughing. It’s just such a funny line.


Jay H. settles into a chair and in the library and leans back, the front chair legs leaving the floor. This is Jay’s third and final year at camp. He has been cast at Octavius Caesar in Antony and Cleopatra Part 2.

What was surprising for you during the rehearsal process?

This year it was different, Jeremy [West] is more businesslike than other directors I’ve had. When you are there, it’s time to work. It’s a different environment.

What did you learn?

It helps to get off book by the day they want you too. You should be aware of how big a challenge you want when you get here because if you ask for a big challenge they just might give you one.

What has been your favorite part of camp, or what are you looking forward to?

I am looking forward to the lake tomorrow. It’s been the most relaxing thing about camp. Also, I liked going to the Blackfriars, sitting in on rehearsal the other day; it was really interesting. When you see the shows, it looks so polished and it was nice to see that they have to go through the process just like we do.

Any favorite quotes or moments?

When Dan H. screamed “Enobarbus!” It’s a camp wide thing now. But I was there, it was in my cast. Also, the ‘bear with me’; it’s a joke from last year. At “What You Will” last year, someone said they were nervous and to bear with them. An audience member growled and someone else said, ‘I’m a bear!’ That’s how it all began.

Darielle Shandler