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Seattle Shakespeare Company's Camp Bill campers Rossi Bennett (left) and Duncan Weinland. (Photo: John Bradshaw)

Seattle Shakespeare Company's Camp Bill campers Rossi Bennett (left) and Duncan Weinland. (Photo: John Bradshaw)


Kids Play With Shakespeare At Camp Bill

Marcie Sillman

Some kids spend the summer at sleepaway camp. Others play sports. And then there are those children who prefer a different kind of summer experience.

For the past 15 years, Seattle Shakespeare Company has enrolled hundreds of kids in a summer program called Camp Bill. Instead of swimming and hiking, these kids get a taste of William Shakespeare, and a chance to spread their own dramatic wings.


On a rare sunny morning, a dozen kids aren't playing outside. They're gathered in a rehearsal room in the Seattle Center Armory, the building formerly known as the Center House.

The kids range from late–elementary schoolers to teenagers. They stand in a big circle, reciting Shakespeare. In turn, each kid says a line from a play, then points across the circle to a fellow camper to follow suit.

This game they're playing is actually a theatrical warm–up exercise. When the campers finish, teacher Anastasia Higham preps them for the morning's rehearsal.

Higham: "Excellent. Now, with the same kind of energy and feeling, extending the lines, we're going to run our lines for the 'Rain, Rain Everyday,' you guys ready?"

Welcome to Camp Bill, one of Seattle Shakespeare Company's outreach and education programs. Unlike the theater's regular school performances, Camp Bill is a chance for the kids to perform Shakespeare themselves.

Camper: "With that I was a little tiny boy. A hey ho, the wind and the rain"

The kids work together in groups, but they also learn stage fighting, basic acting techniques, even set and costume design. It sounds like a lot for a two week session.

Thirteen–year–old first–time camper Duncan Weinland says the camp teachers don't cram too much in at first.

Weinland: "The first week is mainly working on the basics of our monologues and the scenes that we're doing."

Weinland's monologue is from one of Shakespeare's comedies, "Twelfth Night." The campers get to choose their own monologues. Each two–week session ends with a performance for the other campers. Seattle Shakespeare Company says Camp Bill isn't a pre–professional actors' training program. It's open to any kid who wants to come. But middle schooler Duncan Weinland says he wants to pursue drama once he gets to Seattle's Roosevelt High School.

Weinland: "I'm definitely going to try to get into the musical at Roosevelt when I go there, so, I'll keep doing acting. It's fun."

Camper: "With that's all one, our play is done. And we'll strive to please you every day." Instructor: "Excellent. Give yourselves a round of applause."

I'm Marcie Sillman, KUOW News.

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