Session 2 Festival and Goodbye

Yesterday the Session 2 camp festival brought families, friends, and loved ones to the Blackfriars Playhouse for an exciting day of playing.

I snapped this shot during the music call this morning before the house opened up. The campers opened the Festival with their final song from Truth or Dare Shakespeare. Then the audience had a fantastic day of shows spanning Shakespeare’s whole writing career: Two Gents, an early comedy; Julius Caesar, a middle tragedy; and Coriolanus, Shakespeare’s last tragedy.

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The day opened with introductions and a welcome from ASC Director of Education Sarah Enloe and Director of Mission Ralph Alan Cohen. The cast of Two Gents took the stage with excitement.  In new costumes, the campers performed their hearts out, showing again that spectacle is the least of our concerns here at ASC.  The merit, beauty, and breath lives in the text. Special applause to Ella and her fabulous wardrobe, Bridget as Crab, director Chelsea Phillips, and assistant directors Mark and Claire.

I called Coriolanus to take their places at 1:35.  After a warm, special welcome speech from director Matt Minnicino, the campers entered Up Center and I never took my eyes off them.  Demanding the audience’s attention, our judgment, our investment, the campers delivered a show they can be proud of. Special applause to all the music makers in the show.

The Festival concluded with Julius Caesar. What a commanding show!  As I watched, it struck me that director Andrew Blasenak lead the campers to this successful production by employing the ASC methodology and pedagogy. He followed embedded stage directions and let the text lead the playing of Caesar’s assassination; he created Rome using our imaginary forces and since I’m praising his cast and production, I’ll keep going: I’ve not seen a better staging of the storm.  Special applause to all the actors who had demanding doubling tracks (another of Shakespeare’s staging conditions this show utilized), and especially to Bobby, who held the largest track, with five characters.

From the Session 2 camp staff:

“Doubt thou the stars are fire, doubt that the sun doth move; Doubt truth to be a liar, but never doubt I love.” Campers, you are the reason why.  We do it for you. Thank you for being such outstanding young people. Your talent, camaraderie, and passion impresses, inspires, and infects us until we are fat with pride and joy. Thank you for your performances at the Festival and our hats are off to you as you matriculate this Fall and continue to grow, to be invested, to lead.

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“Parting is such sweet sorrow.” -Romeo and Juliet, II.2 (Of course I end with R&J)

-Kayla Blue, camp intern

A Tribute to Our Counselors

A big thanks to the dedication and care, generosity and commitment of our counselors this summer. You were a crazy group; what Shakespeare nerds we employed these sessions at camp! And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Session 1 Head Counselor Adrienne:


Session 1 Counselor Karl’s apparition:


Session 1 Counselors Clara and Mark got lots of laughs (in a good way) onstage in The Merry Wives of Windsor.


Session 1 Counselor Kaitlyn in the Blackfriars Balcony with the Henry V cast:Kaitlyn

Session 1 Counselor Liam directs stage combat call and works the Henry V fight with Nora and Chloe:

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Session 1 Counselor Clara is only mid-way through constructing Falstaff’s hat:


Session 2 Counselor Claire, center, conducts the Showcase finale song, an original arrangement, a mash-up of “L.O.V.E.” and “Take me to Church.”


Session 2 Counselor Gabby, Director Matt, and Counselor Paul in Coriolanus ponchos:coriolanus directors

Session 2 Counselor Chloe receives her secret sonnet from Rachel:


Session 2 Head Counselors Mark and Claire emcee the What You Will open mic coffee house night:

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Session 2 Counselors Alexi and Gabby finger sword fight at What You Will:

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Thank you to all our counselors this summer: Adrienne, Mark, Kaitlyn, Clara, Liam, Karl, Claire, Chloe, Paul and Alexi! Your dedication, early mornings, and late nights made ASCTC safe, wonderful, and entertaining.

-Kayla Blue, camp admin intern

Inside Plays: The Two Gentlemen of Verona

The Two Gentlemen of Verona finds itself categorized with Shakespeare’s problem plays and for good cause. The play is about friendships and how the characters of the play treat their friendships, ultimately arriving at a climactic moment wherein the forgeries of friendship are forgotten. Known as Two Gents around camp, this early problem comedy by Shakespeare is not the most often performed or criticized of his plays.  The benefit of that? Well for me, only having seen two productions, the play in performance is foreign enough to keep me surprised. If you have seen many Two Gents productions, just keep in mind the meaning of “Proteus” and know that Shakespeare’s texts and the Blackfriars Playhouse allow for an infinite variety of choices to actors, audience members, and, today, directors, and trust that surprises are in store for you, too.

A large part of the actor’s preparatory work at the ASC, and therefore at ASCTC, is textual table work. The campers of the Two Gents cast had a beautiful, poetic text to work with this session.  This text impresses me with majesty of Shakespeare’s early verse: uniform, stately, and fattened on rhyming couplets.  I trust they each paid attention in their Text and Scansion master class; when I popped my head into rehearsal on Tuesday it sure sounded like they had.

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(Avobe L-R) Ella, Bridget, Dan, Val (seated), Jake, Randi, and Macy in rehearsal.

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(Above) The four principal characters, Valentine, Proteus, Sylvia, and Julia, played by (L-R) Phil, Abraham, Nula, and Emma embrace in reconciliation of friendship.

Though the play may have its problems, like its later kindred text, for these Gents all’s well that ends well.

-Kayla Blue, camp admin intern

Inside Plays: Coriolanus

Inside Plays: Coriolanus

Monday night was a late night for our campers.  Each cast had a ninety-minute rehearsal on the Blackfriars Playhouse stage, but the rehearsing didn’t begin until 7:30pm. This week will hold late nights again: one more for each cast before our Last Night camp evening on Saturday and the Festival Sunday. At Monday’s rehearsal I caught the Coriolanus campers on stage.  While snapping photos, I considered the progress the campers have made so far, and all the work still ahead of them this week.

The cast in rehearsal at the Blackfriars Playhouse.

The cast in rehearsal at the Blackfriars Playhouse.

The (above) Coriolanus cast knows about hard work.  This is the largest cast in the camp with thirteen actors playing nearly thirty different roles. Truly, “one man in his time plays many parts.” The campers’ demands are so high they have burst the seams of the rehearsal room, and Coriolanus is spilling into the hall, down the stairs, out the door. All the world’s a stage? More like, all the world’s a rehearsal room:

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Evie as Coriolanus and Jordan as Aufidius in the rehearsal space proper.

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Margaret as Nicanor the traitor and Sidney as Adrian rehearse outdoors on this gorgeous day. Counselor/AD Paul sits up right giving direction to the scene.

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Maeve, Katie, and Clifford rehearse alongside the salad bar at Hunt Dining Hall.

Director Matt employs body paint, costuming, hair and makeup, and other devices to fashion the characters of the show physically, to aid each camper in discerning their own roles, and to help the audience distinguish the camps of people of the play (Volscians, plebians and Romans). Coriolanus is a political play of pride and war, oppression and aggression.  See the dramaturgy page by camp dramaturg Marisa to continue getting to know this late play by Shakespeare, and come see these dedicated campers’ performance this Sunday, August 9th.

-Kayla Blue, camp admin intern

Inside Plays: Julius Caesar

Today’s blog post is the first of what will be a three-post series.  In excitement and preparation for the Festival this weekend, I thought I would explore and expose a facet of each show’s rehearsal room.

A production can’t approach Julius Caesar without considering stage combat.  Our campers had a master class in stage combat with camp director Andrew Blasenak. Andrew is directing Caesar, and so his expertise is really being put to use this session. Coriolanus and Two Gents also have stage combat moments, but none so famous as the death of Caesar.

To keep from giving away too much, I’m sneaking you some pictures after Caesar, played by Grace, has been killed.

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Here are Ellis as Brutus and Rachel as Antony in the foreground.  I see Kat as Casca and Holland and Bobby in the background. This scene involves every company member, as all the conspirators, Caesar, the Soothsayer, and Caesar’s friends and supporters are all present. It is a momentous scene: the climax of the play.

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Julius Caesar has many famous lines, from “Et tu, Brute?” to “Beware the Ides of March” to “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars.” In this photo, Spencer and Courtney look on as amiable Rachel (as Antony) keeps a level head and prepares for Caesar’s funeral speech, where the (possibly) most famous line of the play is spoken: “Friends, Romans, countrymen lend me your ears.”

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Grace has a tough job ahead of her: the dead body of Caesar lays onstage for two scenes.  I don’t know of a more difficult acting challenge than that.

Caesar will delight and thrill on Sunday.  Stay tuned for Inside Looks at Coriolanus and The Two Gentlemen of Verona.

Kayla Blue, camp intern

Sunshine Daydreams

Yesterday was a much-needed free day here at ASCTC.  The campers slept in or had breakfast off campus in downtown Historic Staunton. After an 11:00 brunch, the day was almost schedule-free, which in my family has always been the true meaning of vacation. The campers took the day and enjoyed Gypsy Hill Park and the pool here in town.  We tanned, read, walked, played, and plain had fun. Check it out (you can click on the photo to enlarge it in your browser):

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Much of the camp, including many counselors I spy in this photo, took to the water right away. Yesterday boasted a high temperature of 88 degrees and that cool pool water satisfied. Clifford took to the pool, but only after finishing his book.  He found a shady place to read that Camp Life director, Tess, and I found highly resourceful (and adorable):

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Hi Bobby! I like your floral ringlet.

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Abraham, Phoenix, and Ellis, each representing a different cast of our camp’s three shows, pose here with the flags of the camp-wide Capture the Flag game we played yesterday afternoon.  The park provided the venue; Tess provided the instructions; the campers provided the fun.  Ultimately, our three-way game of Capture the Flag was called truce, so all three teams (which were the camp casts of Two Gents, Coriolanus, and Caesar) were winners! Then, it was home to the dorm on Mary Baldwin College campus for a pizza party and an easy night.

Board games, including this one, designed, created, and constructed by Counselor Alexi, have been popular during free time.


Counselor Alexi’s original game, No Holds Bard

Movies (about a dozen campers had an impromptu Disney movie night) and music also have been regular past times for our campers when they aren’t in their scripts, preparing seminar presentations, writing college credit papers, or attending master classes.  Yes, they sure know how to relax–and after working so hard these first two weeks, they deserved it. Now week three is upon us and the campers will experience a daily schedule of eat/rehearse/perform and repeat as needed. Festival is only six days away, and yesterday’s relaxing, fun-filled schedule helped our campers unwind before shifting into fourth gear for the final leg of ASCTC.

-Kayla Blue, camp intern