“Lots of surprises,” is how director Barbara Crozier described the scene as the annual Crystal Theatre Shakespeare-themed summer camp kicked off this week. Students from age 7-15 enrolled to learn scenes from “Twelfth Night,” which they intend to perform next week — but first they had to audition.
And that's where Crozier and her co-directors realized that some young students were stepping up to fill roles that they hadn't anticipated them shooting for. Shakespeare is some heavy stuff, and she was impressed with their dedication.
The camp is helped along by regular co-director Tek Wilson and several mentors — students that have passed through the camp before and excelled and have been asked to return to coach the younger actors along. They are on stage to help with lines and boost the confidence of some of the kids as they go along. As they were rehearsing this week, the mentors were mixed amongst the campers while all of them read lines and recited bits in unison so that Crozier could decide which person was right for which part.
“When the mentors and I sat down afterwards, there were lots of surprises that popped up in the kids that stepped up from some of the unlikely and unexpected kids,” Crozier said.
One of her students, Danni Blair, 15, has returned from the prestigious Shakespeare at Winedale program led by University of Texas professor “Doc” Ayers. It is her fourth year, and Crozier said that she has brought back important bits of education from her Winedale experience that helps the Gonzales group.
Blair agrees that the work is difficult to learn, but the process of being on stage brings a happiness and confidence to her that she might not have found if she had not begun stage acting.
“Last year I was a freshman and we did The Dances by Horton Foote and it was the most fun I ever had in a play,” Blair said. “And just two weeks ago I was in a Shakespeare play, A Comedy of Errors, and I had so much fun in that, and that was my favorite play.”
The 16 participants have a special occasion to attend today as a group from another one of Ayers' Shakespeare outfits visits the Crystal for a public performance of “A Midsummer Nights Dream” at 3:30 p.m. It's free, and will feature a couple of Gonzales students as well: Ruby Hamilton as Helena and Miguel Moreno as Francis Flute. They will also perform in Round Top at Henkel Hall on Friday and in the Barn Theater at Winedale on Saturday afternoon.
In addition, a documentary film crew will be at the performance as they work on a feature-length project about Ayers and his 48 years directing the Winedale program.
The Crystal campers may get a few tips for their craft as they work toward their “Twelfth Night” performance next week. As Crozier explains, that particular show features the shipwreck scene and will have parts re-written in a contemporary setting so that casual viewers will understand what Shakespeare is saying in his play. In short, it's a way to wade through the sometimes difficult prose that those plays are known for and will add modern phrases that will help guide us through the play to its eventual outcome. The goal is to marry up the Shakespeare parts and the modern ones so that the audience will have a revelatory moment in what it all means.
“You're gonna get it,” Crozier promised.