Houston Shakespeare Festival helps local students gain appreciation for theater
The Houston Shakespeare Festival will hold its fourth annual conservatory for high school students in July.
The HSF is offering fifteen spots to high school students all over the city. This three-week camp will have stage combat workshops, where the participants will sword fight in the HSF’s upcoming production on the Miller Outdoor stage. They will also learn about text analysis, iambic pentameter, and the meaning of Shakespeare’s words.
“There’s the academic side,” said Nicole Gamache, who recently graduated with a bachelor’s in fine arts in acting and is the director for the event. “They’ll take acting, and they’ll work on scenes and monologues. At the end of the three weeks, they’ll do a showcase where they will present their scenes and monologues,” Gamache said.
Vocal work, other movements, improvisation, and Suzuki Japanese theatre training will also be included in the workshops.
Gamache says the conservatory serves as a way to reach out to high school students, grow awareness of UH theatre and spread the word about the Shakespeare Festival.
Gamache’s said the candidates do not have to audition. Instead, they must turn in a resume and an essay. She says part of the process in choosing the candidates is seeing how well they follow directions.
The plays are picked by the HSF, and for this year’s HSF, the two Shakespeare shows to be featured are “Two Gentlemen of Verona,” and “Henry IV, Part I.” Performances will be free for the public.
“Shakespeare is not meant to be read, it is meant to be seen,” Gamache said. “I think so much of the confusion that people have in reading Shakespeare and when looking at the words, you can’t get all of it because it isn’t being acted in front of you. When you see it in front of you, the words, along with what you’re saying, finally start to make sense.”
Performance sophomore Alaina Gunter attended the HSF in 2012, and said it was a new experience for her.
“I had done a Shakespeare show before and studied them in English class, but the Conservatory was the first time anyone actually showed me how Shakespeare was meant to be acted and read,” Gunter said. “It really taught me how to use the clues the playwright gives in the writing to bring the character to life, which is something I use everyday in my training at UH.”
While some of the classes will be taught by UH staff, most of the classes will be taught by the Actors Equity Association, a national actors union. They will speak to the candidates about college auditions, as well as explain what it takes to put on a production such as the HSF, and what life is like as a professional actor.
“It’s great because when the kids are working on the production, they’ve met these people before and they can have a dialogue, they feel special,” Gamache said.
One of the most important skills the candidates will be learning is how to network.
“(Networking is) huge in the theatre business. I mean, it’s huge any where,” Gamache said. “But in theatre, it’s all about who you know. You have to be in the right place and the right time.”
“My advice to students doing HSF is to take it seriously,” Gunter said. “There’s a saying in the theater world: ‘everything is an audition.’ It’s really true. If you have any interest in pursuing theater in college or beyond, HSF is a great place to make connections that can help you do that. So you want to make a good impression. There are so many people who are there because they want to help you learn, and they have so much wisdom to impart. You just have to pay attention. But at the same time, have fun. It’s a really great experience and you get to meet and hang out with some really amazing, funny, and talented people. So enjoy it!”
Spots are still available for the HSF. For more information regarding the application process or for shows, visit www.houstonfestivalscompany.com.