Kentucky Kids get into Shakespeare act
By Melissa Gagliardi, Special to The Courier-Journal
Taking on the language of Shakespeare can be a challenge for the most seasoned actors, but 10-year-old Trey Gardner has unlocked the key to mastering his role in "Macbeth."
"Once you keep on practicing, it's not really hard," said Trey, a fifth-grader at Indian Trail Elementary.
He is among 20 students, grades one through seven, participating in Camp Shakespeare at The Lighthouse on Shepherdsville Road in Newburg. The community center, which is sponsored by United Methodists, is helping pay for the two-week day camp, conducted by the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival. The rest of the costs were covered by the Norton Foundation, making the camp free for participants.
Lighthouse director Margaret Butler had heard of the camp from another community center and said she was determined to bring it to her kids, "even if they had to take it out of my salary," she said.
Camp Shakespeare not only teaches children one of the Bard's plays, but also dance, discipline and other aspects of theater such as blocking and making props. Difficult vocabulary is explained during the first few days, and at the end, the youths perform before audiences at Central Park.
Camp director Regan Wann said it's amazing how children take to Shakespeare. "I have yet to have a kid who can't handle it. Even the 6- and 7-year-olds get it," she said.
This year the camp was at six sites around Louisville and Southern Indiana, and the groups will perform at Central Park starting today and continuing tomorrow, July 8-9 and July 15-16. The Lighthouse group performs at 6:45 p.m. today in the C. Douglas Ramey Amphitheatre.
Jordan Walker, 9, will be nervous but ready. "I practice here and at home," he said, adding that, as the doctor who observes Lady Macbeth, he's not sure what all his lines mean. His most difficult line? "A great perturbation in nature, to receive at once the benefit of sleep and do the effects of watching! In this slumbery agitation, besides her walking and other actual performance. What at any time have you heard her say?" Jordan recited, adding that it makes him wonder why Shakespeare used so many big words.
Along with saying difficult lines, the children dance and perform fight scenes. Cierra Flournoy, 10, a fifth-grader at Rangeland Elementary, is one of the "Shakespeare Steppers," performing a modern step dance to one of the choral arrangements in "Macbeth."
Cierra said this is the first time she has been exposed to Shakespeare.
"I thought it was going to be boring when I signed up for it, but it's fun," she said.
Wann said the camp is more about having fun during rehearsals than putting on a perfect performance.
"There are going to be plenty of times you have to learn about Shakespeare where it's not going to be fun," she said.
"Kids walk away saying, 'I can do Shakespeare. I can do lots of things.' "