By Shannon Boklaschuk
The University of Saskatchewan (USask) and Saskatoon’s annual Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan (SOTS) festival have entered into a new partnership to offer Shakespeare-themed summer drama camps to youth.
The Department of Drama has been offering a variety of summer drama camps on the USask campus for years, and SOTS has also run some camps for the last few years. It made sense for the two organizations to work together.
“For Shakespeare we were finding it was tough to run them on our own; we didn’t have all the right tools,” said SOTS artistic producer Will Brooks.
The Department of Drama was also interested in trying something new and “being able to work on Shakespeare in the classical and those kind of things, which is something that we can bring to the table,” Brooks added.
“So, basically, the way we’ve got it set up is that we’ve partnered to make it easier for both organizations, in that we can bring the things to the table that we want,” he said.
Earlier this month, the Department of Drama offered youth camps on comedy, clowning and improvisation; playwriting, producing and performance; and tragedy, classics and mythology. A musical theatre camp will be held from July 22 – 26, followed by the new two-week Shakespeare camp scheduled for Aug. 5 – 16.
The Making a Scene Drama Camps, which take place in the John Mitchell Building on the USask campus, are aimed at youth ages 10 to 17. The new Shakespeare camp, which targets the same age demographic, will take place at USask and at the festival site on the banks of the South Saskatchewan River.
Senior USask drama students will facilitate the majority of the new Shakespeare camp, although professional actors who are part of this summer’s Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan company will also play a role in teaching the youth.
“It ends up meaning that the student teachers and the professional artist teachers get to collaborate and work together, and share knowledge and share experiences and share their skills and all those kinds of things,” said Brooks.
Carla Orosz, a professor in College of Arts and Science’s Department of Drama, said both the student teachers and the young campers wanted to see the development of a Shakespeare camp.
“When we started discussing with Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan about partnering up, it just made sense then,” she said.
The Shakespeare festival and the Department of Drama have had a long-standing relationship, with many of the department’s students, faculty and alumni finding employment with the summer festival since it began 35 years ago. The festival is currently in a time of change—a new site makeover is slated to begin this fall that will result in a new amphitheatre, box office, dressing room and more—and the organization wants to continue working with the Department of Drama as it moves into the future, said Brooks.
“There’s been a long tradition of people sort of getting their start in the professional industry after coming out of the U of S and getting their first gigs with Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan,” he said.
Orosz is one of those people. She started working with Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan as a second-year undergraduate student at USask—and she hasn’t stopped. Last year, for example, Orosz designed costumes for Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan and also served as a mentor to a USask drama student who landed an assistantship position with the festival. Orosz’s third- and fourth-year students also had behind-the-scenes roles with SOTS.
“It’s community engagement. We can only teach so much in the classroom and then experiment with it a bit,” she said. “This always gave the opportunity to get your hands dirty and do some work. So as long as that’s still happening, then our U of S students (have) a one up on other universities.”
This year, numerous USask alumni are members of the cast and crew who are bringing to life Shakespeare’s comedies As You Like It and The Comedy of Errors. The alumni list includes Daniel Ford Beavis (BFA’00), Kristi Friday (BFA’00), Beverley Kobelsky (BFA’87, BA’91), Miranda Hughes-McKnight (BFA’16), Grahame Kent (BFA’13), Alan Long (BSA’90, BA’03, BFA’05, MA’08), Blaine Hart (BA’82, BEd’83), Jenna Berenbaum (BFA’15), Jacqueline Block (BFA’14) and Aaron Hursh (BFA’07).
The 2019 Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan festival runs until Aug. 18.