Shakespeare star returns to stage


The young local actors here don't get the hint...that you're supposed to take summers off in between your school years. It's time for vacation and relaxing and games and getting the right clothes for your next big first day of school.

And maybe it is that way for the stage actors at the Crystal Theatre. But somehow, they always find a way to squeeze in some William Shakespeare while still enjoying the lazy days of youth.

This year celebrates the 25th summer of the theater's kids acting camp. And like they have before, select students will be heading to the big leagues of summer acting camp with the annual Shakespeare at Winedale program, which houses students for a two-week block at a remote ranch outside of Round Top. It sounds like the perfect setting for a horror flick, but you'll hear nothing but laughs as Shakespeare's “The Comedy of Errors” is taught and recited to those booked for the camp.

Local actor Ben DeMent, who will be a freshman when school begins again, visited this office almost giddy with excitement for his coming adventure. He is just one of a handful of students that was chosen by University of Texas professor Dr. James “Doc” Ayers to perform at the prestigious Winedale barn.

This will be the second time that DeMent has been selected for the program. And this year, he gets a whopping 200 lines as the character Antipholus in the play. His good fortune, he believes, is that he is a Winedale alum and that Ayers has studied his work and personally decided to bestow him with the added workload of carrying the play. For he not only plays one character, but also his identical twin brother as well.

DeMent will be joined by two other local students, Avalon Palm and Danny Blair. Crystal Theatre Director Barbara Crozier noted how rare it is for Ayers to select multiple students from a single town for a camp that only accepts 11, but she credits that to the history that the theater has for cranking out quality talent for over a quarter century.

The two week Winedale camp isn't strictly about acting. Students get their usual camp activities, with the standard camp dining options, free time with new friends, singing, playing games, group improv sessions every day, and a bit of yoga. The interactions with these new strangers that quickly become acquainted have allowed DeMent the confidence in having conversations that he never dreamed of before. And soon, he'll be taking the big stage and addressing a theater full of his newest fans. It's that confidence that he now has that has convinced him that he can do anything.

“It lets you make your bed for once and go to bed at a respectable time. And, it makes you a generally good person,” he said.

“The Comedy of Errors” hits the Winedale barn on June 23 at 1 p.m. with a $10 admission. You can get a local showing on June 21 at 3:30 p.m. when it visits the Crystal, and one more performance is slated for June 22 at 2 p.m. at the Austin Scottish Rite Theatre.