Sunday, August 15, 2004

Generation Shakespeare
Camp for youths lifts up the Bard
By Ruth Jones/staff

STAUNTON -- Shakespeare is like a foreign language to most teenagers. But the teens at this summer's Young Company Theater Camp not only understand Shakespeare's dialect, but most of them are serious about theater. The summer camp students will wrap up another year, putting what they've learned into action with their final performances of Henry V and Measure by Measure Sunday afternoon.

Eighteen year-old Emma Klempt of Harrisonburg said she loves being the center of attention. She came to know of the camp by chance. 'A guy I was dating last summer was doing this, and I came down and visited and thought this was the coolest thing in the world,' she said. As she heads for college at the University of Mary Washington, Klempt said she knows she wants to continue to be involved in theater in some way.

For friend Mary Via, the experience has been eye-opening. 'My mom found this (camp) on a Web site. I had low expectations. I'm not really friends with the theater people at our school,' said Via, who is a senior from Richmond. 'I just found that the people here are a lot of fun, and we're really compatible. There's a nice balance of academics and theater," she said. Now, Via said one of the things she'd like to do is teach theater one day.

Jim Warren, co-founder of the camp, said that students' experiences with Shakespeare in high school are often dull and difficult, but he feels that the atmosphere of Blackfriars Playhouse changes attitudes.

"I think Shakespeare opens up, and the students see Shakespeare for what it was meant to be and that's fun," Warren said. Along with Ralph Cohen, Warren has been working with youths since the late 80s. After working together in theater at JMU, Warren said their love of theater and sharing it with youths grew into the summer camp that it is today.

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